Friday, May 30, 2014

Two-Tomato Farfale with Wine Poached Chicken & Broccoli


I had this dish while on a recent mini-vacation with the Hub at Ft. Myers Beach, Florida.  It was a house dish ... Farfale Terra Nostra, aptly named after the restaurant Terra Nostra.

The flavors were so clean, simple yet complex at the same time. I loved that it used two types of tomatoes; fresh and sun-dried, fresh broccoli, a delicious and light garlicky wine sauce.

I was so impressed I had to come home and reproduce it. And while I know it can't be exactly like theirs, my adaptation so close, that it will forever transport me back to the memory of that highly relaxing and much needed vacation.

And the Hub? Well, he barely spoke during dinner, except to come up for air, exclaiming "this **** is so good".  I couldn't have asked for a higher compliment than that! 

Serves 4

1 pound farfale pasta
 Palm full of Kosher salt to boil the pasta
1 bunch of broccoli, cut down into flowerettes 
1 pound of chicken breast, butterfiled and sliced into 2" strips
     (The day before, brine** the breast for maximum moistness and flavor)
Salt & Pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 campari tomatoes quartered
8 oz sun-dried tomatoes, chopped 
      (Do not use the oil-packed type and do not reconstitute dried tomatoes in water)
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 generous tablespoon of minced garlic (or more to taste)
1/4 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more (to taste) to grate over each serving
Olive oil to drizzle over top

  • Butterfly, slice and brine** the chicken breast the night before or the morning you are planning to make the dish. 
  • Remove from brine, discard brine, rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and very lightly brown the chicken. Work in batches. Add all the chicken back to the skillet. 
  • Add the white wine, stock and minced garlic to the skillet with the chicken. Bring to a low boil then reduce heat and allow to poach while the  water for the pasta comes to a boil and the pasta cooks. About 15-20 minutes total. You should be left with about 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid.
  • Bring a deep pot of water to the boil, once boiling add salt and pasta and cook according to package instructions. Set a timer one minute before the end of cooking time.
  • With one minute before pasta is done, add the broccoli to the cooking pasta water and cook for 1 minute. Drain pasta/broccoli.
  • Place pasta, broccoli, campari and dried tomatoes in large deep serving bowl, and stir together carefully.
  • Pour in chicken cooking liquid and chicken, stir to distribute.
  • Add creme fraiche, stir through to distribute.
  • Add Parmesan, stir to distribute.
  • Drizzle olive oil over top.
  • Serve into individual pasta bowl and grate additional Parmensan over each serving.
Serve with garlic bread and a light salad and your wine of choice. Enjoy!

**Recipe Notes:
It takes little time to brine your chicken and what you get back is juicy, flavorful chicken. To brine one pound of chicken: 1 quart of water,  dissolve 3 tablespoon of Kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, add the sliced chicken. Keep in fridge for up to 24 hours. 
Want to  learn what else you can brine and learn more about the process? 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Easy Italian Sausage Skillet Dinner

Italian food is one of my other favorite foods to make. Italian dishes are usually in line with my vision of cooking: simple and fast! Nowadays, everyone is fast paced, so I believe in recipes that cook up fast recipe and that make life easier but not compromising on good, home-cooked dinners. Italian sausage is a great meat. It's absolutely delicious, full of flavor, easy to make, spicy or sweet and versatile. However, as my mom mentioned in a previous post, it is easy to get stuck on the same ol' recipe of sausage and peppers. Yes it's a great recipe but we need to change it up a little... at least for the sausage's sake! This recipe is great for sausage. If you do not have sausage on hand or do not like sausage then you may replace it with ground beef (another great ingredient). Instead of pasta for this dish I use rice and everything is cooked in one pan making it a fast easy dinner for during the week. You will notice the recipe calls for instant rice and it is important to make sure instant rice is used or it will not cook properly. I hope you enjoy this delicious sausage recipe!

1 lb Italian sausage (sweet or spicy), cut into 1 inch pieces
olive oil
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable juice
1 1/2 cups instant rice
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. In a skillet, heat oil on medium heat and cook sausage pieces until no longer pink.

2. Add the pepper, onion and garlic. Cook until crisp.

3. Add the can of diced tomatoes and vegetable juice; cook and stir until mixture boils. Remove from heat and stir in the rice.

4.Cover and let stand for 6-8 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with mozzarella then cover to melt. Enjoy!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Best of The Fork's Seasonings, Marinades and Rubs


Memorial Day Weekend has always been the quintessential start to the summer.
It means warm, sunny days, lots of rain if you are in Florida and the grilling season. Although for me it's always the grilling season. Today I am posting the best of my seasonings, marinades and rubs for your weekend, weekday and summer long enjoyment. Cheers to summer!

Achiote Paste - Make Your Own - This has become my "go to" for everything grilled, roasted or sauteed!

Beef & Pork Marinade Version 1 & 1.1 - One marinade two versions, what more could you ask for?!

My Parent's Authentic Cuban Roast Pork - You can use this marinade on anything and it will be delicious.

Brine, Brine, Brine That Turkey! - And anything else your heart desires.  Brining will make even the toughest cuts juicy and flavorful!

Succulent Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb - Not just for leg o' lamb but lamb chops, lamb shanks, lamb anything!

Make Your Own Cuban Sazon Completa / Adobo Seasoning - Skip the MSG hidden in the store bought kind and make your own Sazon Completa. This stuff is is great on anything - even grilled fruit.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tomato Paste - What To Do with the Rest of the Can


Did you know that you can freeze left over tomato paste? Well you can! 

Don't you hate it when you have to open up a can of tomato paste and all you need is one tablespoon? Then you either leave it in the can or plop it into a plastic container and off into the back of the fridge it goes, only to be found a month later and probably growing some funky science experiment type organism on it. You could dish out $5 for those squeeze tubes, paying .60 cents per ounce (highway robbery!) or you could do what I do - freeze it.  Here's how:

Place a generous sheet of cling on your counter (see photo). Run a spatula along the walls of the inside of the can and empty out the content of the tomato paste can onto the bottom third of the cling. With the spatula smooth it down and shape into a rectangle. It's not art, so no need to get fussy about it. Roll the cling cover the paste and continue rolling up until you have nice sausage like shape. Twist each end in opposite directions to tighten the bundle. Tuck the ends in and place inside a freezer safe container or zip bag.  Next time you need tomato paste all you have to do is cut through with a serrated knife, remove cling and use as needed. No waste, no science experiment and no highway robbery!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sticky-Sticky Glazed Drumsticks


Seems like all everyone ever eats anymore is chicken breast and the rest of the chicken, the dark meat, goes unnoticed and unappreciated. I know breast meat is the "healthier" alternative, but just how much healthier is it really? A three ounce portion of a boneless, skinless chicken breast has 2.97 grams of fat and 138 calories. A three ounce boneless, skinless thigh contains 7 grams of fat and is 174 calories but packs one heck of a flavor punch, it's juicy and has more iron and zinc than breast meat. Now let's turn our attention to the drumstick, three ounces of meat AND skin are 137 calories and 7.38 grams of fat. Take off the skin and the fat count goes down to 4.71 grams. Not to shabby, right? Frankly, I'd rather eat a smaller portion and get more flavor than eat a larger portion with little flavor and juiciness. If you actually don't like the dark meat, I get it, but if you are omitting it because you think it's healthier to go with breast meat, you might want to reconsider and say hello to chicken thighs and drumsticks! This recipe uses drumstick with skin on, you can remove it if you prefer.

Serves 2 - 4

8 - 10 drumstick. Be sure to brine your drumstick for even more flavor, don't skip the brining, it really makes a difference. Click here for my handy brine chart.

Marinade and Sticky-Sticky Glaze
4 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
Juice and zest of two lemons
Kosher salt