Recipe: Roasted BBQ Chardonnay Chicken

This recipe was inspired by Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman when I was looking for a new twist on making BBQ chicken for one of our last meals in our apartment.  I wanted to make something that would fill the apartment with “yummy smells” and give us a meal that could be eaten for a few days in chicken salad or sandwiches.  While I really liked the original recipe, I found it difficult to replicate, possibly because I was using an electric oven instead of a gas range.  I also was trying to use up ingredients from my fridge before the move to our new home, so I definitely did some substituting along the way to create something truly finger-linking.  Here’s my take… I hope you enjoy!

I started with a package of 10 chicken thighs.  I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and used a large, high-edged baking pan, drizzled with the last of my olive oil.  I placed the thighs, skin-side down, in the pan and liberally topped them with garlic salt and pepper before placing the pan in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.  NOTE: I removed the skin from half the thighs to see if there was a marked difference in taste…  in the end,  I didn’t miss the BBQ’d skin in the least.OvenRoastedBBQChardChicken

While the chicken roasted, I made a sauce of 3/4 bottle of BBQ sauce (use what you like), 1/2 jar apple jelly (use whatever preserves you like best – I would have preferred grape or blackberry, but apple jelly was in my fridge, waiting to be finished), a thumb’s length of crushed garlic (the stuff from the tube is fine, unless you want to mince your own… then use 2 cloves or so),  1/2 cup of Chardonnay (I would suggest using your favorite non-oak chardonnay here), and 1/4 cup ketchup.  I heated the sauce on the stovetop and kept it warm throughout the cooking process so I could easily brush the meat with the thickened sauce.

Once the thighs have roasted for 25 minutes, I brushed them with sauce and flipped them over before liberally brushing sauce on the top.   Thus began a series of three “roast for 10 minutes- baste with sauce- pop back in the oven” segments.  Since I didn’t really see the crispy BBQ-look I wanted, I then popped the oven temp to 425 degrees and roasted for another 10-15 minutes.  I liked that the original recipe didn’t call for any flipping of the chicken thighs, but I did have a lot of extra “juice” that I removed after the second or third “10 minutes in the oven” segment.  You can see by the photos that the sauce does get really dark and caramelized as it continues to roast and I do believe that this would have cooked a little quicker in a gas range, but I ended up with the result I wanted and we thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

I”ll post the recipe for the accompanying Twice-baked Potatoes with chardonnay as soon as I can…. these are fast becoming a staple in our house, so I really need to share this recipe as well.  If you like baked potatoes, crossed with mashed potatoes, crossed with potato skins, you’ll love this easy side-dish.

Until then…. enjoy cooking for your family!

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Recipe: Simple Wine Scones

I played with a recipe today… and ended up with the yummiest (and most simple) scones I’ve ever tasted.  A friend had posted this 3-ingredient scone recipe from TheMiniatureMoose.com on Facebook and I couldn’t help myself… I *had* to try it!  Of course, I just can’t make a plain scone, so I picked up some mini chocolate chips and decided to use some of the Chardonnay that I had in my fridge… it was a HIT!  I took most of the scones downstairs to the Leasing office and treated the ladies to an afternoon snack and they agreed with me.  Yummy & easy… wine & chocolate… two of my favorite combinations.

I started by preheating my oven to 425 degrees.  There were very specific (yet simple) directions in the original recipe, but my version ended up being totally tasty as well.  In a large bowl, I mixed 2 cups of self-rising flour with two Tablespoons of sugar and two palmsful of mini chocolate chips.  I then added 1 1/2 cups of canned coconut milk and stirred to combine.  NOTE: Canned coconut milk separates into two layers… a thin “milky” layer and a thick “greasy” layer.  You need to stir these two layers together to create the creamy coconut milk you want to use.  FYI… don’t poke the harder white layer on top too energetically or you’ll get spritzed with the milk that comes sporting up out of the can.  Trust me… I learned the hard (and messy) way on this one!  😉SimpleWineScones

My version differs at this point with most recipes for scones.  Everyone else will say to be gentle with your dough and to kneed the dough and do all sorts of lovely things to form your scones.  I was simply lazy and wanted to see if this recipe would still work, so  I stirred in some Chardonnay (a bright stainless-steel Chardonnay is great in this recipe, especially if you choose to add any citrus to the mixture) and made sure that everything was well-combined.  I then spooned the scone dough (it was definitely not something that could be cut into forms at this point) onto a pan sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkled the dough with sugar.  I knew I was going to want to cut the dough into pie-shaped wedges, so I tried to make slight indentations into the top of the dough so I’d know where to cut.  Much more than this wouldn’t have worked with this version of the recipe.

baked the scone dough at 425 degrees for 17-20 minutes until the top started to look lightly browned and didn’t look like it was going to be gooey when it cooled.  Ok, this isn’t a very “scientific” way to describe it, but it’s the most honest way I can explain it.  I shook the pan and nothing moved… then I pressed the top of the dough and it felt pretty solid.  I figured it was good to go at this point.

I removed the large cooked scone to a cutting board and allowed it to cool for a few minutes.  I then took a knife and cut the dough, following the pie-shaped wedge marks that I’d originally made.  They came out nicely puffed and light – not dense or dry at all.  I might just bake them in small rounds next time…. they would be lovely as a dessert, broken open and drizzled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

See… even a diversion from a tried-and-true recipe can turn into something totally different and fun!  Let me know if you come up with a new way to play with this recipe… and I’ll be sure to add other versions as I play with this recipe on my own!

Wishing a Happy Summer to you all!

Recipe: Asian Chardonnay Chicken and Pasta

The inspiration for tonight’s dinner came by way of the salad dressing in my fridge… really!  I picked up a national brand Asian Sesame salad dressing recently and wondered how it would pair with chicken for dinner.  Thankfully, it paired beautifully and became the focus of this recipe.  NOTE: You can substitute your own favorite dressing in this recipe… if you like it, feel free to use it for more than a salad.AsianChardChickenNPasta

I started with two chicken breasts.  I made a foil packet (using two pieces of foil) in my baking dish and placed the breasts together  on the bottom of the dish.  I then poured some Chardonnay white wine (I love using James River Chardonnay for this sort of recipe) and drizzled the dressing on the breasts before closing up the packet.  I could have easily cooked the chicken for 30 minutes at 350 degrees,  but I wanted to cook dinner much slower, so I let the breasts steam in the packet at 250 degrees for an hour.  NOTE: Even at this much longer time frame, the breasts were tender and juicy… I love when an experiment goes well!

About 20 minutes before I wanted to serve dinner, I started making the bow tie pasta and added a touch of Chardonnay to the cooking liquid to flavor the pasta to mirror the chicken’s sauce.  After taking the chicken out of the oven and opening the packet, I realized that the sauce was much too thin to be “good enough”, so I had some work to do.

I removed the chicken to a plate and poured the cooking liquid into a saute pan.  Using a bit of the cooking liquid, I made a slurry with some flour, whisked the slurry into the pan, and cooked the sauce until it thickened (which happened really quickly).  For flavor, I added a few tablespoons of a garlic/herb light cheese, some salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of herbs de provence.  Then, using a spoon and a fork, I turned the cooked chicken breasts over twice to pick up the sauce and warm the chicken a bit.

Serving dinner was easy… I ladled pasta onto the plates, placed the chicken breast on top, then poured sauce over the entire meal.  A side salad or a vegetable would have added a bit more color and a great boost of nutrition, but we opted to go with a very simple meal tonight.  If my entire family was coming to dinner, I could have easily cooked more chicken/pasta and the additional vegetables/salad would have completed the meal.

It’s the little things that can add to your meal each night.  Adding your family’s favorite vegetable or some crusty bread to dinner can round things out quickly.  Follow your instincts when it comes to cooking… and wait to hear the sounds of happy, satisfied family members singing your praises.

Enjoy the food journey we all travel… it’s so much fun that way!

Recipe: Onion Roasted Chicken

What do you do when you have to make a quick, no-hands-on dinner?  In my house, you make Onion Roasted Chicken Breasts.  My son and his girlfriend were coming over for dinner and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time slaving over a stove top, so this was my way of making something that was tasty, low “tech”, and “guest-worthy”.  I hope you enjoy it!

I started with two large chicken breasts.  Since I was feeding three people (one of whom was my son), I decided to slice the breasts in half, width-wise, to extend the amount of food without having to wait for three thick chicken breasts to cook through.  Once the breasts were cut into four separate cutlets, I put them into a bag with a sliced onion and a mixture of salad dressing (I used a lite sesame Asian vinaigrette), Chardonnay (a stainless steel Chardonnay works best here… just be sure to use what you like), and some salt/pepper.  I let the chicken/onion mixture marinate for a half hour.OnionRoastedChicken

When my guests arrived, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and covered a baking pan with foil for easy cleanup.  I used tongs to remove the chicken and onions from the marinade and placed them in the baking sheet (as shown in the photo).  I decided against pouring the small excess marinade over the chicken.  I could have poured it into a pan to create a sauce, but this wasn’t that sort of  a dinner… I wanted something more simple.

The chicken took about 20 minutes to roast.  While the chicken and onions were roasting, I popped a bag of green beans into the microwave and cooked them for 6 minutes (until they were steamed thoroughly).  I then pulled everything out of the oven/microwave and plated our dinner.  Had I been feeding my husband, I would have added some garlic toasts or a “starch” of some sort, but this was the simple, easy dinner that my son preferred.

You can also make this dinner with fish, if you’d like.  There are many options when it comes to a dinner recipe such as this… try your hand at using your own favorite ingredients and have fun.  You’re feeding the ones that you love… enjoy!

Recipe: Chardonnay Chicken Piccata

Wow… this recipe was a huge hit last night.  It’s not a difficult recipe, but it has such huge presence and flavor that it’s quickly going to become one of my favorite recipes to make for company.  I really hope that you’ll consider making this for your family… It’s hard to imagine any chicken fan *not* enjoying this dinner!

Again, I started by using an actual recipe that I found by flipping through allrecipes.com and searching out a basic recipe that would utilize the half bottle of chardonnay that I had in my fridge.  Of course, I had to alter the recipe to fit my family’s preferences, but isn’t that what I do with every recipe I make?  NOTE: Most Piccata recipes also call for capers, but since my family isn’t big on them, I left them out of this recipe.  Here are the basics of Chicken Piccata:

Ingredients:

ChardonnayChickenPiccata

  • 3 whole chicken breasts (one package from my freezer), sliced in half, lengthwise
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Flour – enough to dredge breasts, approximately 1/2 cup
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 cup White Wine (I used a half bottle of James River Cellars Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (I didn’t have any on hand, so I used 1 packet of G.Washington Golden bouillon and a little water)
  • 2 whole lemons (I used both juice AND zest)
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (I never have cream on hand, so I used 2 Tablespoons of nonfat plain greek yogurt instead)
  • Egg noodles or your favorite pasta

Instructions:

  1. Start by simmering your water so you can drop your pasta when your dinner is almost finished.
  2. Slice chicken breasts in half, lengthwise, so they are fairly thin and each person can have two breasts per serving and still not feel like they’re over eating.
  3. Sprinkle each chicken breast piece with salt/pepper and dredge in flour.
  4. Heat one Tablespoon of butter with one Tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Fry each chicken breast until golden brown on both sides, in batches as needed so as not to crowd the pan.  Once breasts are golden, remove to a separate plate and keep warm.  NOTE: I did this in two batches and used another Tablespoon of butter and olive oil each for the second batch.
  5. Once the chicken is done, reduce the heat in the skillet to medium low.  Pour wine into the skillet, add the juice and zest of both lemons, and use the liquid to stir in all the bits from the bottom of the skillet.  Add chopped parsley to the sauce and allow it to cook long enough for all the flavors to combine.  Add greek yogurt (or heavy cream, if you are so inclined) and whisk in to thoroughly incorporate.  This is when I taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings – add salt/pepper as needed while it’s cooking so you don’t have to add more when you’re serving your meal.  I also add a spoonful or so of pasta water to lighten up the sauce if it seems to be thickening too quickly.
  6. While you’re making the sauce, start your pasta so you have everything done at the same time.  Drain pasta and get it ready to serve.
  7. For this meal, I added a bag of green beans, so I microwaved the bag for about 5 minutes to cook them quickly.  My favorite way to serve beans (especially for company) is to put a sliver of butter in the bottom of the serving dish, top with salt/pepper/seasonings.  I then toss the hot beans in the serving dish, distributing the butter and seasonings throughout the beans and making them look impressive!
  8. As the sauce thickens, add the cooked chicken back into the sauce and flip them so both sides get covered in the sauce.
  9. To plate your dinner, put the egg noodles on the plate, top with two chicken breasts, and spoon a bit of sauce over both.  Add a serving of green beans on the side and you’ve got a well-rounded meal that will impress your friends and any company that may happen over for a special dinner.

I really did love this dinner.  I’m a fan of anything that has a great punch of flavor and still looks pretty when plated, so this recipe really fit the bill for me.  Add capers, heavy cream, or whatever else makes this recipe taste best to you.  The idea isn’t to follow *my* recipe exactly… it’s to create a meal for those you love.  Enjoy the process… it’s what makes cooking such a fun thing to do!

Helpful wine terms

I ran across a great listing of descriptive wine terms that I thought would be nice to pass along to those of you who follow my blog.  I’ve had a number of people who ask about how not to look like a neophyte when visiting a winery and I think this listing would be extremely helpful.  Please feel free to use this link, which will open in a separate tab (http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/useful-terms-for-describing wine.html?cid=RSS_DUMMIES2_CONTENT) or allow me to share the information, piece by piece, with you.  The article was written by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan but I’m going to add my own commentary as we go.

There are many specific terms that people use to describe wine.  These words are helpful as they evoke tastes, smells, and memories that meant to give you an idea of what you have tasted or are about to taste.  Don’t be afraid to use these words… but don’t feel that you have to use these descriptors exclusively.  Knowing their meanings can help you understand when someone more” technically knowledgeable” describes a wine to you.  Knowing what you like and what appeals to you will help you choose a wine that you will most enjoy.
  • Aroma or bouquet:The smell of a wine — bouquet applies particularly to the aroma of older winesTake a moment to smell the wine.  Hold the glass just under your nose and inhale deeply for a moment.  Your wine guide (a term I like to describe the person walking you through your tasting at a winery) can give you some specific scents that should be prominent.  Many varietals have unique characteristics and you’ll begin to pick up on these with time.
  • Body:The apparent weight of a wine in your mouth (light, medium, or full)With your first sip, hold the wine in your mouth for a moment to discern it’s texture.  It sounds like a weird thing to do, but you don’t need a great deal of knowledge to tell if a wine seems thin, well-balanced, or heavy before you swallow.  It’s still a personal thing… a wine that feels thin or light to you can seem to have more depth to someone else.  Don’t stress over how a wine feels to you.  It’s not wrong, it’s personal.
  • Crisp:A wine with refreshing acidityIn my experience, this term typically refers to a white wine.   If I am looking for a wine that reminds me of a Granny Smith apple, this is the technical term I want to see used in its description.  It’s not going to smell like flowers… it’s not going to have a great deal of sweetness… This is the wine for someone who wants to taste the fruit but not the sweetness in their beverage.
  • Dry:Not sweetI really like this description of “dry” and “Residual Sugar” included in this article (http://www.drvino.com/2008/11/18/winespeak-the-opposite-of-sweet-is-dry/) and find that it’s helpful to note that a wine that’s considered “dry” can taste fairly sweet.  When you visit James River Cellars Winery (www.jamesrivercellars.com) for a wine tasting,  you’ll find that the first five white wines are all considered “dry” but they vary greatly in the impression of sweetness.   Find what amount of sweetness appeals best to you and you’ll be much happier with your wine purchases.
  • Finish:The impression a wine leaves as you swallow itAgain, linger a moment as you swallow a sip of wine to see if the end matches the beginning, in your opinion.  Ultimately, that’s where the most important deciding factor lies… with YOUR opinion.
  • Flavor intensity:How strong or weak a wine’s flavors areThere are times when you want a strong flavored wine to accompany food… and there are times when you want something that comes across a little softer.   The aroma and color of the wine can give you an indicator of how intense the flavor will be, but be sure to always taste the wine.  You might be surprised, especially when sipping wines made by an especially talented winemaker or vintner.
  • Fruity:A wine whose aromas and flavors suggest fruit; doesn’t imply sweetnessThis is a difficult term around which to wrap my head… I’d always thought “fruity” meant “sweet”.  When tasting your wine, search out flavors of specific fruits… green apple, pear, peach, grapefruit, cherry… these can be found in varying degrees in so many wines that it’s worth taking the time to search your memory bank as you sip, smell, and savor.
  • Oaky:A wine that has oak flavors (smoky, toasty)Smoky and toasty flavors in a wine can be a wonderful thing… but if you’re not a fan, it’s going to quickly turn you off from tasting.  James River Cellars offers two different Chardonnays… one fermented in oak and one fermented in stainless steel.  Tasting these two wines, back-to-back, can be one of the most effective ways to showcase how oak can affect this specific grape.
  • Soft:A wine that has a smooth rather than crisp mouthfeelSoft is a descriptor that is another very individualized one, especially when it comes to wine.  What might feel “soft” to me, could be something entirely different to you.
  • Tannic: A red wine that is firm and leaves the mouth feeling dry

    This is the term you’ll use when a red wine leaves you with a pucker feeling in the back of your throat and a dry feeling throughout your mouth.  If you like this residual feeling when drinking a red wine, you’ll want something with strong tannins… if you’re not a fan, you want something that is described as either soft or smooth.

Use these terms as “jumping off points” when it comes to discussing wine with others and use them with confidence.  No one is wrong when describing how a wine feels or tastes to you and no one can tell you how to feel with regards to a wine.  This is one of my favorite points about wine tasting.  The idea is for you to enjoy yourself when drinking wine…. and to drink more wine.

Cheers!

Recipe: Simple Chardonnay Dinner

I’ve been sharing this recipe with people for ages, but I thought I’d better get it down in type before I get too much grief.  Seems I have a few people who like to use this blog as a simple cookbook, so I want to keep everyone on the same “page” as it were.  I’ll try and get a photo of this dinner soon, but until then, you’ll need to use your imagination.

There are days when I just don’t want to have to think about how I’m going to throw dinner together when I get home.  I love to cook and be creative, but it’s nice to have a simple “go to” available if I’m not in the mood to experiment.  That’s where this recipe comes into play.

I always have frozen shrimp and frozen chicken (of some sort) on hand.  I also like to have those wonderful orange bags of Uncle Ben’s 90-second brown rice in my cupboard… and I will, as long as my local grocer keeps them in stock.  (Note to self: give grocery store manager the address of this blog so he knows how important that item is to keep in his available inventory.)  That being said, I can get a fairly simple dinner done as long as these main ingredients are available to me.

I start with either frozen shrimp or frozen chicken.  I thaw whatever I’m planning to use, and for simplicity’s sake, let’s pretend that I’m using shrimp for dinner.  Once I remove the shells from the thawed shrimp, I spray my saute pan with cooking spray and cook the shrimp to a hard sear on both sides, until they’re pink and just cooked.  I then remove the shrimp to a plate and cover lightly with foil to keep warm.  (Note:  if I’m using chicken, I use skinless, boneless chicken and cut it into thin enough pieces to cook about as quickly as the shrimp does in this recipe.)

Next, add 1T margarine and 1T flour to make a roux.  Allow the roux to bubble and cook the flour a bit – this mixture should turn slightly brown and toasty.  Add Chardonnay, along with a bit of chicken stock to make a sauce. I tend to add the wine first, then add some stock and taste the sauce before continuing. (NOTE: I like to use an oak-aged chardonnay but any tasty stainless Chardonnay is also stellar in this recipe.   Use something you enjoy drinking – if the wine is too salty or not flavorful enough, you won’t enjoy the sauce you create.  Add enough wine to make a sauce that is to your liking.)  Take time to allow the flour to thicken the sauce as it cooks and don’t be so impatient that you add too much liquid… adding flour at this point is when you’ll get little flour lumps as it’s difficult to incorporate  thoroughly.

Once you have the sauce completed, replace the shrimp in the sauce and add a little touch of parsley or a fresh herb of your choosing.  While your shrimp are soaking up the flavors of your sauce, pop a bag of 90-second rice into the microwave and use to plate your dinner.

You can add a crisp green salad, bread, and a vegetable to this dinner if you so desire, but I find that the simple dinners are best served simply.  Let the food shine and enjoy the accolades that accompany such a delicious dinner.  If someone feels compelled to thank you by doing the dishes, so much the better, right?

Enjoy!