White Wine Braised Lamb Chops

 

2014-01-12 19.38.22Winter weather cooking is all about comfort foods that are full of flavor and warmth.  Lately I have been playing around with braising cheap cuts of meat.  The flavors are incredible, the meat is insanely tender, and braising is really very easy to do.  Technically braising is just searing then slow cooking a cut of meat that has a tough quality or connective tissue that needs broken down.  Adding wine, beer, or tomatoes with broth then covering to finish cooking for a long period of time completes the braising process.  Of course time is a factor and planning in advance will only help enhance the flavors, try this for a fancy weekend meal.  For tonights braising I got the lamb chops at Paulina Meat Market and decided to go with a white wine and beef broth cooking liquid, fresh herbs, and vegetables to enhance the lamb.

I chose lamb shoulder chops that are blade cut, the least expensive cut of lamb in stock at the market.  I decided to keep the flavors soft using leeks instead of onions with the white wine.  Starting on Saturday I rubbed the lamb down giving it a day to soak in, I definitely recommend this with this recipe.  Thyme goes so nicely with dry white wine and I happen to have a lot growing right now, so I used that primarily with a little fresh rosemary and parsley to round out the flavors.  You can use other herbs that you have fresh or dried (use a little less if using dried herbs as they are more potent) sage or oregano would be lovely as well.

Ingredients: 

Rub:
2 tsp of garlic powder
2 tsp of pepper
2 tsp of salt
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced and heaping
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh parsley, minced

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2 8oz cuts of lamb with bone in and marbled with fat/connective tissue
4 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 Leek, halved and sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp of ground pepper
4 sprigs of thyme, center stem removed
2 bay leaves
1 cup of white wine
1 cup of beef broth

Directions:

1. At least one hour in advance (up to 12 hours in advance) mix together rub ingredients and pat onto lamb chops, refrigerate until 30 minutes before browning.
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2. Choose a large heavy pan with an oven-safe lid to make the meal in.  Heat on medium-high, coat with olive oil and brown lamb chops 5 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside.

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3. Lower heat to medium-low, add a pad of butter to pan and saute carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.  Saute for 8-10 minutes before adding white wine, beef broth, and chops to pan.  The liquid should come about 2/3 of the way up the side of the meat, I added a little more wine and broth after taking this picture below.  Bring to a boil.

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4. Once boiling, cover pan and place in oven at 285 degrees for 3 hours.

2014-01-12 19.27.46In the end the meat is literally falling off the bone and that tough connective tissue has melted into a soft smooth consistency.  The smell is incredible and the taste is so flavorful, words cannot do justice.

To serve this I boiled some cauliflower until very tender, mixed it in the kitchenaid standing mixer with butter, roasted garlic, salt, pepper, and a little milk.  It made a rice-like consistency that was a perfect bed for the lamb and vegetables.  You can also use rice or mashed potatoes, but I wanted to make this paleo friendly.  Fresh green beans for a side and you have yourself a restaurant quality meal at home.

Enjoy and Stay Healthy!

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Simple Breakfast Salad

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On days that I want a substantial breakfast without the carbs, a breakfast salad is my go-to.  It’s easy, delicious, and filling without making you feel guilty.  For this breakfast salad there is of course a side of bacon to go with it.  I used romaine lettuce, but you can use any greens you may have available.  Add as many vegetables as you would like, this is a simple starter salad to get you going.  Instead of a fat filled dressing, the roasted red peppers, lemon juice, and egg yolks combine beautifully in the bowl to do the trick.  This makes 2 salads.

Ingredients:

8 slices of thick cut bacon
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup of red onions, diced
4 slices of roasted red peppers, diced
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 avocado, diced
4 eggs
fresh cilantro and lemon wedge for garnish

Directions: 

1. Cook bacon in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  It will take less time if sliced thin.
2. In a heavy skillet take a small amount of the bacon grease from the pan to saute onions and garlic for a few minutes.

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3. In your serving bowl combine lettuce, diced red peppers and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
4. When bacon is crispy cut 2-4 slices into small pieces and add to salad with cooked red onions.
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5. Cook eggs sunny-side up in skillet over medium-low heat with bacon grease to keep from sticking.
6. Top salad with avocado, eggs, cilantro, and a squirt of lemon.  Breaking yolks to mix with the salad is the best dressing!

Enjoy and Stay Healthy!

Glazed Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin

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This dish sounds only half as good as it actually tasted.  I really enjoy lean proteins for a main course with lots of fruits/veggies on the side, but sometimes the meat will quickly dry out no matter how much care you take to avoid overcooking.  Lately I have been on a serious bacon kick, even using the grease to cook vegetables…I know, perhaps I will cut back in the new year.  Using the bacon to keep lean meats from drying out is a great way assure a crowd pleasing moist cut of meat.  With the garlic and herb rub it’s unbeatable.  I combined recipes I found online from Fabio Viviani and Giada De Laurentiis to come up with this dish.

The glazed bacon was so fantastic and crispy with the flavorful layer of garlic herbs hiding underneath.  I served this with a simple salad of shaved brussel sprouts, kale, and fennel tossed with a dressing made with fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, and shaved parmesan topped with salt and fresh cracked pepper.  So good with a nice flavor that didn’t get lost next to the bacon and pork.

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Ingredients:

1 2-4 pound boneless Pork Loin (not tenderloin)
5 large cloves of Roasted Garlic
1 Tbsp fresh minced Thyme (center stalk removed)
1 Tbsp fresh minced Rosemary
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 pound of thick cut Bacon
3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Directions:

1. Rinse and dry the pork loin, place fatty side up on a broiler pan.  I scored the shiny tendon/fat of the loin, careful not to cut into the meat.

2. Mash together the roasted garlic with the dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano) to make a rub.

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3. Rub the garlic herb mixture over the exposed surface of the pork loin.

4. Lay the bacon slices over the loin, overlapping slightly.  Tuck the ends under the loin to hold in place.  If the bacon slices aren’t long enough they will curl up while cooking, so you may want to tie them down with kitchen twine.

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5. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

6. Mix together the vinegar and brown sugar (adjust amounts as needed to make a thin glaze).

7. After the initial 1 hour of cooking, brush the glaze over the bacon.  Return to oven to finish cooking until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees (about 30 minutes depending on the size of your loin).  If you have to add a considerable amount of time to fully cook, you may want to lay foil over the bacon and/or re-glaze to avoid burning.

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8. Remove and let rest for about 20 minutes.  Internal temperature should rise another 15 degrees to reach 160 before serving.  You will need to check the internal temperature of the pork with a thermometer unless you are really confident in your ability to judge cooked pork.

This dish is truly amazing and very easy to make.

Enjoy!

Skillet Baked Chicken

This recipe is incredibly easy, uses only 1 dish, and a handful of ingredients.  I made this for a quick weeknight dinner but will definitely be making it again for a crowd.  The key to this is good quality bacon, shocking I know.  You want a thick cut applewood smoked bacon if you can find it.  I get our bacon at the Paulina Meat Market usually so the slices are fresh and as thick as I want, but I also like Wright brand from our local grocery store.  This is not for turkey bacon or a thin sliced lean bacon, the smokey fat makes all the difference in giving depth and keeping the chicken moist.

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Ingredients:

3 slices of bacon, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In an oven safe skillet cook the bacon stirring frequently.  When half-way cooked add the bell pepper and cook about 5 minutes on medium low heat.
3. Push the bacon and peppers to the edge of the skillet and turn heat up to medium.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, place in the center and brown about 5 minutes on each side.
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4. Place the skillet in the oven to finish cooking for about 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

One Pot Curry Chicken and Rice

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This is an easy and very flavorful one pot wonder that is great for a last minute dinner party.  I have substituted various vegetables into the mix, so you can use whatever you on hand.  I used boneless and skinless chicken breasts, but you can use any cut of chicken you have on hand.  I imagine this being good and even cheaper using chicken thighs.

Ingredients: 

1 cup of Rice (not instant)
3 tsp oil (canola, olive, or coconut)
4-6 skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), trimmed
2 cups finely chopped onion
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced (or 1/2 tsp ginger powder)
2 Tbsp curry powder (red or yellow)
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 cups chicken broth
1-15oz can of chickpeas, rinsed
1-14oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped zucchini (as shown) or frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Heat 1 tsp oil in dutch oven over medium heat, add chicken and cook until browned on all sides ~8 minutes.  Remove and put on plate.

2013-11-07 18.29.543. Reduce heat to low and add more oil, cook onions until golden brown ~15 minutes.  Stir in garlic, ginger, curry powder, coriander and ground red pepper.  Cood until fragrant ~2minutes.

4. Increase heat to medium high, stir in broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, zucchini and rice.  Season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer.  Nestle chicken into the rice, cover, and cook in oven 20-25 minutes.

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5. Serve with a small wedge of lime if desired.

Enjoy!

Coconut and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

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After Thanksgiving you are likely looking for something to eat that is healthy but perhaps with flavors that are out of the comfort food category.  This dish is full of vegetables and has a spicy flavor that is perfect for this time of year.  Serving on a bed of spaghetti squash cuts back on calories and sneaks in some extra fiber.  I made this dish with coconut milk to keep it dairy free and change the flavor profile even further out of the comfort food zone.  I used chicken, but this would be good with pork or even shrimp.

Ingredients: 

1 Onion, diced
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp sriracha (or red pepper paste)
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes
3 red peppers, roasted with skins removed
1 jalapeno, roasted
1 15oz can of coconut milk
1 tsp truvia or sugar

Directions:

1. Slice red peppers and jalapeno into flat pieces, spray with olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees.

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2. While the peppers are roasting heat grapeseed oil, coconut oil, or olive oil in large dutch oven, saute onions over medium heat for 5 minutes.

3. Add coriander and cayenne, simmer for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Stir in garlic and ginger, continue to heat for 5 minutes.

4. Add can of diced tomatoes including juices and mix well.

5. When the peppers are blackened, remove from oven and place in bowl covered with saran wrap.  Allow to sit in bowl for at least 5-10 minutes before removing skins (sitting in steam will allow skins to slide off easily).

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6. Roughly chop peppers and add to pan.  Add sriracha and truvia or sugar and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

7. While your sauce is simmering start to brown chicken (seasoned lightly with salt and pepper) in heavy skillet for 5 minutes on each side.

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8. Add coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes before pureeing.  I used an immersion blender, but if you don’t have one you will have to transfer to a regular blender to puree in batches.

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9. Nestle browned chicken into sauce and simmer on low for 15 minutes to finish cooking.

10. Serve over rice or spaghetti squash as pictured above.

Enjoy!

Spicy Chicken and Orzo Soup (crock pot)

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With my husband sick last week I wanted to make a good but easy chicken noodle soup.  Using a whole chicken, I broke it down and cooked it all day in the slow cooker to develop a spicy homemade broth.  Adding orzo noodles at the end you can finish the meal with little effort.  The hardest part of this dish was breaking down the raw chicken, very different from carving a cooked bird.  I had never really done this before, but I have read about it in my cooking magazines.  Don’t let them fool you, it is a bit of a process.  For those of you who don’t like to handle raw chicken…this is not for you.  I unfortunately don’t have pictures of the process as I didn’t want to get raw chicken hands on my phone.

Here is a link to a brief tutorial.  http://www.marthastewart.com/967789/how-cook#973692

Now I cut mine a little differently because I didn’t watch the tutorial first, rather went from memory.  Using kitchen shears I cut the bird in half through the spine and finished separating right from left by then splitting the breasts.  With the two equal halves I cut off the legs and wings.

If you don’t want to deal with bones you can use boneless and skinless chicken breasts, but I’m not sure you will develop the same flavor in the broth without the bones and skin.

I decided to use the orzo noodles for a smoother consistency with the large pieces of chicken, but you can use a traditional egg noodle or whatever noodle you want.  The fun part of cooking with orzo is that on day two the noodles will soak up almost all of the broth making a thick casserole consistency for the leftovers.

The best part about this meal is that it is very cheap to make a large quantity of food.  Whole chickens are inexpensive compared to buying the pieces separately.  I paid $5 for the whole chicken and about $3-4 for the rest of the ingredients (except spices that I had on hand).  After we had this for dinner I put the rest into mason jars for lunch, it made enough for 2 of us for the entire week.  Less processed and way less sodium than the canned stuff!

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Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds), broken down into pieces.
1 large onion, diced
6 large carrots, peeled and diced
6 stalks of celery, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 dried chili pepper (Optional for heat)
4-5 sprigs of thyme, stems removed
1 bay leaf
1 lb orzo noodles, uncooked.
water
salt and pepper to taste (be generous, at least 1-2 tsp of salt and pepper each)

Directions:

1. Break down your chicken as instructed above.

2. Layer the crock pot with onions, celery, carrots and top with chicken.

3. Season with salt and pepper generously, add garlic, thyme, chili pepper and bay leaf.

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4. Fill the crock pot with cold water.  Cook on high for 2 hours then cook on low for 4 hours.

5. At least 30 minutes before serving add orzo noodles and stir gently.

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6. To serve ladle out noodles and vegetables with a whole piece of chicken per person.  The chicken will literally fall off the bone in your bowl, so you can grab end and it will come out clean with little effort.

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7. For storage remove the rest of the pieces of chicken and separate meat from bones, stir to mix well (you can do this immediately if you don’t want to serve the chicken pieces whole).

Enjoy!