Recipe: Apricot Chicken and Snow Peas

This recipe was such a huge success this week!  I was trying to come up with a simple recipe to use a sweet/spicy sauce with chicken and I ended up with this winner of a meal.  You’ve GOT to try this one… truly!

I started with a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I salted/peppered each side and seared them in a medium-large skillet pan into which I had melted a small amount of olive oil and sesame oil.  Once they were nicely browned, but definitely NOT cooked through, I added a rather creative sauce.ApricotChickenSnowPeas

My sauce consisted of the following ingredients:  Gewurztraminer (dry) wine, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, apricot jam, commercial orange sauce, and soy sauce.  All these ingredients can be used, to varying degrees, depending on your taste preferences. NOTE: I chose to use a dry Gewurztraminer wine because of the heat that was going to come out from the orange sauce, but you could easily switch out a sweeter Riesling or Vidal Blanc white wine (or even chicken stock if you don’t want to use wine) but if you choose a sweeter wine, I’d decrease the amount of jam used.  It’s totally up to you!

Once I rolled the chicken in the sauce, I chose to roast this dish, covered, in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours.  I had the time and really wanted to have the scent permeate the house before we had dinner.  If I were more pressed for time, I could easily have left this on the stove top and kept the heat on medium for about 45 minutes or until the chicken thighs were cooked through.

Once the chicken was done, I added half of a small package of snow peas (sugar snap peas would be a great substitute) and allowed them time to cook in the sauce. Just before serving, while the sauce was still a bit runny, I mixed a few tablespoons of sauce with a little bit of cornstarch to make a slurry and added that into the sauce to thicken the mixture.  NOTE:  Make sure to add the cornstarch to a small amount of liquid rather than adding the cornstarch directly to the pan to prevent lumps in your sauce.

When I added the snow peas, I started cooking a small batch of egg noodles so they would be ready in time for dinner. This was a great bed for the dish and really allowed the flavors to pop.  If you prefer, brown rice would also make an excellent accompaniment.

I do hope you’ll try this recipe sometime.  I’ll be using the basic idea of this sauce for a shrimp dish tonight for dinner and expect it to present the same stellar results.  It’s all about finding the flavors that mix best for your family and playing with them to make your own arsenal of go-to recipes.  Enjoy!

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Easy Beef Bourguignon

Note: This recipe is an homage to “Bob’s Short Ribs Bourguignon”, by one of my favorite chefs from the Outer Banks.

A few years ago, I was privileged to spend some time with a chef during a group cooking class.  He cooked in a way that was very similar to my own, using his hands/eyes as a way of measuring ingredients and his intuition as a way of creating a dish that was both delicious and flavorful.  Having a trained chef share his take on a traditional, classic recipe was a gift beyond compare and I’ll always be grateful to him for opening my own eyes to cooking this way.  This recipe used some basics from Bob’s recipe and added my own twist, allowing me to use my own intuition (The Force) to create a new dish.

I was at a wine/food festival recently and was asked if I had a Beef Bourguignon recipe on my blog.  Since I hadn’t “formally” cooked and blogged about this recipe, I decided to remedy that problem as quickly as possible.  EasyBeefBourguignon

I started with a package of beef that I found on sale at my local grocery store. NOTE: I try and pick up packages of meat anytime they go on sale, that I can use in various recipes, and keep them in my freezer until needed.  This helps keep my costs down and I can “shop” in my freezer for dinner inspirations most any day.  I sliced the beef into 1-2″ chunks and, using my favorite large stock pot, browned them in a bit of olive oil after dusting them with some flour, salt, and pepper.  Since I had so much beef, I did this step in two stages, removing the first half of the beef once it was browned and repeating the process.  

Once all the beef was crispy, I placed it all back into the pot and added the following ingredients:  1 sliced onion, 4 diced bacon slices, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1 beef bouillon packet (I like G. Washington Brown), a few globs of ketchup, and covered everything with a lovely red wine (think James River Cellars Monitor).  I stirred everything to combine it nicely, popped the lid on the pot, and put the entire dish into a 300 degree oven to cook for awhile.  I think it cooked for about 2 hours, but I was really waiting for the entire recipe to reduce and mesh together well.  You could easily reduce the heat on the stove top, pop the lid on, and cook it for the two hours, but I prefer to use the oven when I can for this sort of meal.

Once the wine had reduced and the sauce was thick and rich, I added half a bag of frozen peas to bump up the color factor on the meal.  The final touches involved adding a few dashes of worchestershire sauce and a small bit of butter to gloss the sauce.  It looked delicious!

As we got closer to dinner time, I cooked some egg noodles and sliced some crusty bread to complete the meal.  The final product was deep, dark, and rich… a perfect meal for a cold, snowy evening, even if it *was* March.

I hope you’ll try making your own version of this wonderful recipe.  Using short ribs (when on sale) is a great alternative to a piece of pot roast, but you can use most any meat that will handle this sort of long, slow cooking process.  Changing up the vegetables by using carrots, pearl onions, or any other favorite vegetable is a great way to add nutrition and tailor the recipe to your family’s preferences.

Remember, cooking is about sharing your love with the ones 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!