Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

Chorizo Tacos

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

This might be the closest thing I have to a “secret family recipe” to share with you all. There are plenty of meals that I make just like I grew up with, but I don’t necessarily think that they involve secrets or tips that other people don’t already use. Chorizo is a great ingredient, and I don’t think enough people are using it.

The chorizo that I’m talking about here is the mexican kind. (There’s also Spanish chorizo out there–it’s hard, like salami or pepperoni) The mexican chorizo, on the other hand, is soft and crumbly, a spicy pork sausage that you can find at nearly every grocery store, near the bratwurst and other sausages. I like to mix it with equal parts ground beef, ground pork, or ground turkey to make tacos–it adds a whole new level of flavor. It’s more than just heat, though chorizo-based tacos are spicier. The chorizo imparts this intense mexican flavor. Once you try tacos like these, you won’t want to go back!

taco

Chorizo Tacos

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound chorizo mexican sausage
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix
  • tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, or whatever you like on your tacos!
  • taco shells (soft shells or hard shells, whichever you like)

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the chorizo. It will be very crumbly and will render lots of fat. That’s okay. Once the chorizo is mostly cooked, about 10 minutes or so, add the ground beef and continue cooking until browned.

2. In the meantime, prepare your taco shells and other fixings. Hard shells require several minutes in the oven, so don’t forget to preheat.

3. When the meat is cooked through, drain the mixture thoroughly. You want to get as much of the extra fat out as you can, or the tacos will be way too greasy. I don’t like to go so far as to rinse the meat, because you rinse flavor away with the extra grease, but I do use a paper towel to soak up as much as I can. Return to the skillet and follow the directions for your taco seasoning. Even though you’ll have about 2 pounds of meat at this point, you only want to use enough taco seasoning for one pound. Remember: the chorizo half of the meat brought it’s own flavor.

4. When the meat is finished cooking, you’re done. Let everyone assemble their own delicious tacos. Dig in!

Note: It’s worth saying that while the chorizo is quite a bit fattier than using just ground beef, there are some things you can do to lighten the dish, while still getting tasty tacos. 1) I’ve substituted Soyrizo successfully–barely noticed a difference. You’ve probably noticed we’re not much for vegetarian dishes around here. I wouldn’t recommend the Soyrizo if it wasn’t good. 2) The chorizo brings plenty of fat to the mix, which will let you use a lighter ground meat without risking a dry meat mixture. Feel free to use the leanest ground beef you have, or even ground turkey or ground chicken. 3) Even 1/2 pound of chorizo to a full pound of turkey or lean beef makes a difference in the flavor. Feel free to experiment to find your favorite combination.

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I like seafood, and my family likes seafood, but unfortunately, I’ve got a circle of friends who don’t care much for it, as a rule. In college, even though I could share an employee discount from my part-time job at The Olive Garden, most of my friends weren’t interested in Red Lobster–until I introduced them to the biscuits.

Red Lobster calls them Cheddar Bay Biscuits. They’re soft and fluffy in the middle, crispy at the edges, flavored with garlic and cheddar cheese throughout, and finished with butter and fresh parsley. Best of all, they come in a bottomless basket, like chips & salsa at a Mexican restaurant or more standard dinner rolls at a steakhouse. They truly are crave-able.

So you can imagine how excited I was when the most recent issue of Food Network Magazine claimed to have cracked the secret recipe. I couldn’t wait to try them.

And you know what? They’re really good. I thought they tasted just like the real thing! Next time, I think I’d take more care to make smaller biscuits. The larger ones that I made didn’t get as crispy as I would’ve liked. I ended up with an even dozen, but I’d probably aim for 14 or 16 next time to get the proper size.

Almost-Famous Cheddar Biscuits
From Food Network Magazine, October 2009

For the Biscuits:

  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces grated yellow cheddar cheese (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

For the Garlic Butter:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Lightly mist a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Make the biscuits: pules the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the shortening and pulse until combined. Add the cold butter cubes, pulse 4 or 5 times, or until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the cheese and pulse 2 or 3 times. Pour in the milk and pulse just until the mixture is moistened and forms a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a clean lightly-floured surface and knead gently until the dough comes together. Do not overwork the dough, or the biscuits will be tough.

3. Drop the dough onto the baking sheet in scant 1/4-cup portions, 2 inches apart, and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. While the biscuits are baking, make the garlic butter. Melt the butter with the garlic in a small sauce pan over medium heat; cook for 1 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. When the biscuits are finished, brush them with the garlic butter and serve warm.

Note: I like that this recipe is made in the food processor, but I don’t have any experience with how it would work without the food processor. I do have an instinct that everything up to the vegetable shortening could be replaced with Bisquick–but I haven’t tried that either.

Chicken Tamale Casserole

Monday, September 14th, 2009

I’ve been playing with the idea of making tamales, but I know how much work they really are. Well, I know how much work they are on paper. I’ve never tried to make them before–and honestly, I imagine they’re even more work than I’ve heard.

That is why the idea of a Chicken Tamale Casserole appealed to me.

It was good, but not great. The good news is, I know what went “wrong” and have some solid ideas of how to fix it. I definitely plan to try this one again sometime.

Chicken Tamale Casserole

Chicken Tamale Casserole
Serves 8 – From Cooking Light

1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (such as Martha White)
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Note (Or what I would change for next time): First of all, I used Jiffy cornbread mix, which is usually pretty satisfying, as far as corn bread mixes go, but for this recipe, a little too sweet. A less-sweet southern style cornbread mix would have worked better. This recipe came from Cooking Light magazine, but if I wasn’t as concerned about the health aspects of the dish, I probably would have used more cheese. Even trying to keep it light, using reduced fat cheese (there are lots of great 2% blends these days!) would’ve kept the nutritionals the same for a bit more cheese. I think it would’ve made a difference. Finally, I should mention that a handful of crushed corn chips sprinkled over the top was delicious. That one was Cara’s idea.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

When I was in college, Bennigan’s was one of our frequent dinner spots. For one, there was a Bennigan’s in each of the malls where we shopped the most. For another, we were all pretty broke, and the food was relatively cheap.

There were also these Monte Cristo sandwiches.

monte cristo

Our friend Sarah swore they were delicious, but Leah and I were hard to convince. The sandwich itself is basic turkey, ham, and cheese on white bread. The special part is that it’s battered and fried, then dusted with powdered sugar. Bennigan’s serves the sandwich with a sauce made of raspberry preserves.

For the longest time, it didn’t sound like anything I wanted to eat. I couldn’t quite place it, but it just sounded all wrong. Too many flavors going on. Raspberry jam  and a turkey sandwich? I was definitely not on board. (It didn’t help that Sarah had tried to recreate this “treat” in our school cafeteria with some collection of french toast, turkey, and generic grape jelly). Finally, somehow, she convinced us to try it, and we had to admit we were wrong. It’s delicious.

It really is.

I use pancake mix for the batter, and deep fry a turkey, ham, and cheese sandwich, like I said. We use good quality raspberry preserves for the dipping sauce. The sandwich is a great blend of salty and sweet, which I enjoy. One thing I never seem to remember is that half a sandwich is really enough for anyone, so we always end up with too many. The recipe below tastes exactly like the Bennigan’s original. With it being deep-fried, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this as an all-the-time thing, but it’s grate for a treat, and definitely worth the trouble.

Deep Fried Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Serves 4

  • 4 slices of white sandwich bread (you want the slices that are a bit longer than your standard wonder bread square–more rectangle shaped)
  • 4 oz deli turkey, sliced thin
  • 4 oz deli ham, sliced thin
  • 4 slices medium cheddar cheese
  • Vegetable Oil, for deep frying
  • 1/2 cup raspberry preserves, for dipping
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting
  • 1 cup pancake batter, prepared according to package directions (I use a Just-Add-Water mix, and it works just fine)

1. Heat your cooking oil in a deep fryer or heavy bottomed pot. When the surface starts to shimmer, add a couple of drops of the pancake batter. If it bubbles and starts to brown at the edges, the oil is ready–if it sinks to the bottom, wait a few minutes longer and try again.

2. While the oil is heating, assemble the sandwiches. I made each sandwich with 2 ounces of turkey, 2 ounces of ham, and 2 slices of cheese. You want to assemble the sandwiches so that the cheese  is closest to the bread slices, which will help the sandwich stay together when you fry it. Cut each sandwich in half along a diagonal.

3. Dip each sandwich half in the prepared pancake batter, turning to coat. It will be thick–that’s okay. Carefully drop each sandwich into the deep fryer or prepared oil to fry.  Sandwiches will float as they fry, and take about 6 or 7 minutes to fry completely. Be sure to turn them once about halfway through, so that both sides get golden brown and crisp. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, and sprinkle the hot sandwiches with powdered sugar. Serve with warmed raspberry preserves on the side for dipping.

Gruyère, Arugula, and Prosciutto-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Caramelized Shallot Sauce

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

One of the things that caught my eye about this recipe was the extremely high ratings on Cooking Light’s website. Of course, the prosciutto didn’t hurt, either–it’s one of David’s favorite ingredients. We also had some gruyere in the fridge. Anyway, I think the recipe has an average rating of 5 stars, and I agree wholeheartedly. The prosciutto and gruyere were rich and salty–and with such strong ingredients, you didn’t need to use much, which makes the dish healthy and delicious. The caramelized shallot sauce was great, and added just a touch of sweetness. I’ve really come around to liking shallots lately. They’re like onions, of course, but with a much more mild flavor.

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Gruyere, Arugula, and Prosciutto-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Caramelized Shallot Sauce

For the Chicken:

  • 6  (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 6  (1/2-ounce) slices prosciutto
  • 6  (1/2-ounce) slices Gruyère cheese
  • 1 1/2  cups  trimmed arugula
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 3  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil

For the Sauce:

  • 1  cup  thinly sliced shallots
  • 2  teaspoons  tomato paste
  • 2  cups  dry white wine
  • 2 1/4  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  water
  • 1  teaspoon  cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare the chicken, place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Discard plastic wrap. Top each chicken breast half with 1 slice prosciutto, 1 slice cheese, and 1/4 cup arugula, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal; sprinkle with salt and pepper. (The chicken can be prepared up to a day ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes on each side. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan; bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until done. Keep warm.

To prepare sauce, add shallots to skillet; sauté 4 minutes over medium-high heat or until browned. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced to 1 cup (about 6 minutes). Add broth; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half (about 8 minutes).

Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to sauce; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Veggie & Parmesan Brown Rice Risotto

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

I stumbled across this recipe on the Whole Foods website while I searched for cooking methods for short-grain brown rice. Accidentally, at Costco, David bought us 12 pounds of short-grain brown rice. I make baked brown rice with long-grain brown rice all the time, but I wasn’t 100% sure that the same receipe would work for short grain rice. I was trying to sort out whether I need more water or what, and instead, I learned that you can make risotto with short-grain brown rice. Makes sense, after all, since traditional risotto is made with short-grain rice.

I decided to make risotto instead of sorting out how to/whether to adjust my regular brown rice recipe. Mostly, I pushed that problem off for another day, but in the meantime, I got to eat risotto. I also got to use up a zucchini we had sitting on the counter from the farmer’s market.

I made a number of changes from the initial recipe, skipping the veggies I don’t care for (most of them!) and lightening up on the cheese, butter, and oil (we’re trying to eat a bit healthier around here). I also used Vegetable Stock instead of Vegetable broth as the original recipe called for, for a richer flavor. It worked. The risotto was delicious. It’s only problem was that it was still a bit on the al dente side. One key difference between white rice risotto and brown rice risotto: the brown rice takes longer!

photo

Veggie & Parmesan Brown Rice Risotto
Adapted from the Whole Foods website; Serves 6 as a main dish, more like 12 as a side.

  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice
  • 2 carrots, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces by weight) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium pot.  Cover broth-water mixture and reduce heat to low.

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring gently, until toasted and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the broth-water mixture and cook, stirring constantly and adjusting heat if needed to maintain a simmer, until liquid is almost absorbed. Repeat process, adding about 1/2 cup of the broth-water mixture each time, until rice is just beginning to get tender, about 25 minutes. Add carrots and continue process with broth-water mixture. When rice is just al dente and carrots are just tender, add zucchini and cook 5 minutes more. (If broth mixture gets low, add water as needed.)

Add cheese, butter/margarine, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add about 1/2 cup more of the broth-water mixture to finished risotto before serving, if you like.

Note: I thought this was very tasty. I expected to have to pick out the zucchini–David likes it, not me, but was pleasantly surprised. It just all kind of melded together and tasted great. I don’t think this needed more cheese at all, even though I basically halved what the recipe called for. The only thing I could’ve done was cook it longer, but we were impatient and hungry! For just us, I’d definitely half this recipe next time. We had tons of leftovers.

P.S. Sorry for the terrible picture. My camera wasn’t charged, and I couldn’t find the charger, so I had to make do with my iPhone. But a poor picture is better than no picture, right?

Chicken Divan and Egg Noodle Bake

Monday, August 10th, 2009

This recipe is adapted from the Rachel Ray 365 No Repeats Cookbook that I got from mom for my birthday, and highlights one of the cool things about the cookbook. It’s organized around “Master Recipes,” followed by variations on the the theme. The master recipe in this case is a “Wild Cream of Mushroom Egg Noodle Bake, Hold the Canned Soup.” And if you’ve read the blog, pretty much ever, you know that we don’t do mushrooms around here.

Still, I liked the idea of ditching the canned soup and making my own. Even though, a can cream of mushroom soup is the foundation of every casserole, I’m not that big of a fan. It’s gray, and loaded with sodium and just kind of blah. Of course, cream of mushroom casserole doesn’t have much without the mushrooms, so I skipped the “master recipe” and went straight to one of the variations, a Chicken Divan casserole.

Didn’t miss the mushrooms at all, by the way.

IMG_2217

Chicken Divan & Egg Noodle Bake

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup whole milk or cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound chicken tenders, diced
  • 4 slices bread, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound egg noodles
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 pound Emmentaler cheese, shredded

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the egg noodles.

2. To make the mushroom sauce: Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, sprinkle in the flour, and cook 1 minute, to cook out the raw taste. Whisk in the chicken stock, bring it all to a bubble, then stir in the milk. Reduce the heat to low and simmer. Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg.

3. To make the casserole, heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the shallots. Cook for one minute, then add the chicken tender pieces and continue cooking until lightly browned and cooked through, about 6-7 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low, and let the liquid cook off.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler to high. While the chicken cooks, cook the egg noodles in the boiling water, until al dente. Drain the noodles and return them to the hot pot. Add the cream sauce to the pot and toss the noodles to coat in the sauce.

5. Cook the broccoli in salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve.

6. To make the croutons, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in nonstick skillet. Toss with the bread cubes and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until toasted all around.

7. Lightly coat a casserole dish with softened butter, then transfer the noodles & sauce to the dish and top with the chicken, broccoli, and croutons. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese, and place under the broiler until the cheese melts and is brown at the edges.

Note: This was pretty tasty. I’d probably try it again. I thought that the sauce was a touch on the thin side, and so I baked the casserole, instead of just melting the cheese under the broiler like the recipe suggested. I think the broiler would’ve been the right move, though. It got a little too dried out after baking.

Pastitso (Greek Lasagna)

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

So Kat got me a pretty awesome birthday present. A cooking present. (It sure does seem like all of my presents lately are cooking presents, but I’m not complaining!)

She bought me this Middle Eastern cookbook. It’s called The Complete Middle East Cookbook. And it’s pretty awesome. It’s broken into sections for all different kinds of cuisines, including Greek, which I know a little bit about, but also others that I know nothing about, like Cyprus, and Turkey, and Egypt and many more. There’s a lot to learn in this book, which I know I will enjoy. And, like all my favorite cookbooks, it’s complete with pretty pictures. I love my cookbooks filled with glossy pictures.

The first thing to catch my eye in the new cookbook was Pastitso. Defined in the book as a “Macaroni & Meat Pie,” it’s really just Lasagna with a Greek twist. When I’ve seen recipes before, it featured spinach, and other veggies, which to be honest, I’m not that crazy about. I was excited to see that this recipe didn’t require substitutions on my part. We liked all of the ingredients.

Though it required some effort, much like making a Lasagna from scratch, it was totally worthwhile. I especially liked the layer of cream sauce. I really wish that I’d thought to make two and freeze one, like I do with Lasagna. That, I think, was my one mistake.

Pastitso (Greek Lasagna)
Adapted from The Complete Middle East Cookbook

For the pasta layer:

  • 1 pound box of macaroni (I used whole wheat penne, because that’s what we had on hand)
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cups grated kefalotiri or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the meat sauce:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

For the cream sauce:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and return to pan.

2. In a small saucepan, melt butter until golden brown, and pour over the reserved pasta. Add 1/2 of the cheese (1 cup) and toss well. Leave until cool, then add eggs and toss again. Set aside

3. Make the meat sauce. First, saute onions and garlic in butter until the onion is soft and translucent. Increase the heat and add the ground beef. Stirring frequently, cook until meat is browned. Add the tomato paste, wine, stock, parsley, sugar, and salt and pepper and cover. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, to let the flavors come together.

4. Make the cream sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook gently for 1-2 minutes, until the flour browns and the raw taste is removed. Stir in the milk and bring to a bubble, stirring constantly. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool before stirring in the beaten egg.

5. Add 1/2 cup of this cream sauce to the finished meat sauce and stir to combine.

6. To assemble, butter a 9×13 baking dish. Line the bottom of the dish with a single layer of prepared pasta. Make sure that the pasta covers the bottom of the dish and is spread evenly. Top with the meat sauce, spreading it carefully and evenly to the edges of the baking dish to create a complete layer. Next, pour the cream sauce on top, and again spread carefully to create an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese on top and cook in a 350 oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Pretzel Crusted Chicken with Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Pretzels and cheese…kind of a no-brainer, that one. This dish takes the salty crunch of pretzels as a breading for juicy chicken breast cutlets. The chicken’s finished with a creamy sharp cheddar cheese sauce, with a spicy note of mustard.

This was one of the first dishes to catch my eye flipping through my new Rachael Ray cookbook, 365: No Repeats.

I enjoyed cooking from this book. The recipe was easy to follow, and while I’ve heard that people take issue sometimes with the promise of a 30 minute meal, I think this chicken dish came together in about that time.

IMG_2178

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Cheddar Cheese Sauce
Adapted from Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to about 1/2 inch thin
  • 5 ounce bag of salted pretzels, any shape
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 heaping tablespoons spicy mustard
  • kosher salt

1. In the bowl of your food processor (or if you don’t have a food processor, this can be done by hand in a ziploc bag), grind the pretzels into fine crumbs. Transfer the pretzels to a shallow dish or pie plate and add the thyme and cracked black pepper.

2. In a second shallow dish or pie plate, lightly beat the two eggs with a little bit of water. Working one at a time, coat the chicken breasts in the pretzel crumbs, then in the eggs, and then in the pretzels again.

3. Preheat a large skillet with 1/4 inch of vegetable oil. Add the breaded chicken breast cutlets to the hot oil and cook in a single layer about 3 or 4 minutes per side. You may need to fry the chicken in two batches to get it all to fit. When the chicken is cooked through, the juices will run clear and the breading will be evenly browned.

4. While the chicken is cooking, make the cheese sauce. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for one minute, to remove the raw taste of the flour, then whisk in the milk. Let it come to a bubble, then stir in the shredded cheese and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

5. Serve the fried chicken cutlets with a drizzle of cheese sauce.

Note: I liked this dish, but I screwed up and accidentally bought unsalted pretzels, which left the whole thing lacking in salt (duh!). Still, it was pretty good without the salt, and would’ve definitely been a keeper if it had been properly seasoned. Oops! I steamed some broccoli to go with the cheese sauce for David, and I suppose if you like broccoli, that was a real success. We had plenty of cheese sauce for the chicken, the broccoli, and even to dip some chips in later that weekend. 🙂

Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Strata

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I was in Cedar Rapids Iowa, visiting with my friends from college. While I was lazy and slept in, I missed the chance to go ot the farmer’s market with a couple of my close friends, Sarah and Leah. I wish I’d been awake, because I love a farmer’s market (though I guess I also missed a bunch of wandering around in the rain, which I don’t love quite as much).

While they were out, they picked up this delicious breakfast baked pastry thing, with eggs, cheese, bacon, and thinly sliced mushrooms and even spinach. I don’t think any of us were totally into both mushrooms or spinach (I’ll eat mushrooms, but not spinach, others were the opposite, some wouldn’t normally eat either one) but it was still delicious. It had been baked and cooled, and cut into squares–kind of like squares of a casserole, but solid enough to pick up and eat. When they got back from the market, we warmed it up a little in the oven and that was it.

I don’t know what it was called, but when I saw this Bacon and Cheese Strata on The Pioneer Woman’s website, I was reminded of it, and decided to try the strata dish.

I’m going to say upfront that this was not my favorite. Maybe I was comparing it (unfavorably and unfairly) to the baked dish from Iowa. I also think I used too much of the bready pita chips in my base (I was halving the recipe, and I didn’t measure the chips so I overestimated what I would need). Then there was the issue of cooking–again a problem with halving the recipe, I guess, but when it looked like the eggs were set at the edges, I cut into it and found raw egg. By the time I was sure the eggs were done, the outside edges were rubbery and overcooked. All in all, I would not call this a success, but I think I might try it again sometime. There’s definitely potential here.

strata

Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Strata
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

  • 6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 piece
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used Tillamook Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese)
  • 5 ounces Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips

1. Fry the bacon pieces in a large skillet until done but not overly crispy and Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

2. Mix eggs, half & half, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

3. Arrange pita chips in an 8 x8-inch baking dish. Slightly press to flatten.

4. Tear pieces of cream cheese and evenly distribute over the top.

5. Sprinkle the bacon pieces over the top, followed by the cheddar cheese.

6. Pour egg mixture evenly over all ingredients.

7. Place into the fridge for several hours or overnight (makes a handy breakfast casserole!), then bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Cut into squares and serve immediately.