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!

Recipe: Stuffed Pork Chops with Gewurztraminer Gravy

This dinner really had a great “wow” factor… the flavors were big, the presentation looked good, and the taste was amazing.  I really thought it was stellar, especially since much of it was simple “Use The Force” type cooking…. my favorite kind, right?!

I had purchased two thick-cut pork chops when they were on sale at my local grocery store a few weeks ago and popped them in the freezer.  Since tonight was supposed to be  “just the two of us” dinner evening, I thought they’d be perfect.  They didn’t take a tremendous amount of time to thaw (especially since I wasn’t planning on letting them thaw completely) and I was able to put things together fairly easily.

While the chops defrosted a bit in the microwave, I made a tiny batch of stuffing.  For things like this, I really do like to use a packaged container of stuffing.  I keep a container of dry stuffing mix in my pantry and can use as little or as much as needed… very convenient!  I scooped out about half of what was left in the container (just under 1/3 cup) and added a little margarine (maybe a thumb’s worth?) and some wine (rocking the Gewurztraminer theme, this was my wine of choice for the night… James River Cellars Gewurztraminer… Mmmmm) and tossed it together in a measuring cup.  I warmed up the mixture in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds (until the margarine was melted) and then stirred to get all the crusty bread into the liquid to soften and re-hydrate.

My biggest challenge with this meal was to stuff the pork chops.  This (to me) seems much easier when the chops are still slightly frozen.  I use a thin paring knife and make a small slit in one side, then wiggle the knife back and forth to make an open pocket in the chop, being careful not to make the original slit too big.  I like to check the size of the pocket with my fingers before attempting to insert the stuffing.  **Make sure not to cut the entire way through the chop but try and get the pocket as close to the edges as possible.

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Once the pocket seems deep enough, divide the stuffing into both chops, doing your best to push it around to fill all the edges.  I then let the chops rest until I was ready to start making dinner.

Using a medium saute’ pan, I added a small pat of butter, and a drizzle of olive oil, heating them in the pan until bubbling.  I seasoned the chops on each side with salt, pepper, and a touch of cracker crumbs.  Panko bread crumbs would work well here, but I used crushed saltines since that’s what I had in the cupboard.  I let the chops cook on medium-high heat in the butter/oil mixture until all sides were slightly toasty.

At this point, I poured a generous amount of Gewurztraminer wine into the pan, sprinkled some Hungarian Paprika over the chops, and popped the entire pan into a pre-heated 375 degree oven while I finished mashing and seasoning some golden potatoes that had been simmering on the stove top.  You can serve these chops with any sort of side dish you want (or none at all, if you prefer) but I love mashed potatoes and gravy, so this was “it” for me.  Egg noodles, pasta, macaroni, or even rice would all be fine accompaniments with this dish… make what you and your family like.

I didn’t really time the chops while they were in the oven.  You can see how much wine I poured into the pan before I put the pan in the oven and it had cooked into the chops by the time I pulled them out, so my best guess would be that they roasted for about 20 minutes or so.  Seriously… I really make dinner this way… The Force is my friend… 🙂

Once the chops looked done, I removed them from the pan, put them on a pewter dish, and put them back in the oven for a few minutes while I made the gravy.  Here’s my favorite way to make gravy… I put the saute’ pan on medium heat and added a pat of butter and use that to help lift off the “bits” from the bottom of the pan.  Once melted, I added a spoonful of flour and let it bubble together and start to get toasty.  Before it starts to burn, add your wine (ok…. you can use stock at this point if you’d prefer… I just prefer to use wine) and slowly whisk and add more wine until the mixture thickens and “looks” like gravy.  I seasoned the mixture with a little salt and pepper, as well as a splash of cream.  I had some leftover heavy cream, so I used that, but normally I would have just used the skim milk that is a staple in my fridge.  Once everything is whisked together and the gravy tastes “just right”, I plated our dinner.

Mashed potatoes, a stuffed pork chop, and gravy drizzled around to look pretty… delicious, no?  The chops hadn’t overcooked… the potatoes were fluffy and lightly seasoned… the gravy had enough texture and taste to hold everything together… it was a wonderful thing.

A homemade dinner to share with my husband is balm to my soul… and I am always glad that he enjoys eating the meals I make.  Sometimes, it’s all about the simple pleasures in life.

May you find, and feed, the simple pleasures in your own life…

Recipe: Chicken Prosciutto Roll

Pairing a cheese and a wine can sometimes be tricky, but it can be a really beautiful thing if you pair Bourcin’s garlic and herb cheese with James River Cellars’ Gewurztraminer white wine. This particular Gewurztraminer is done Alsatian-Style… off-dry and floral but with a slight citrus taste. It’s great with Szechuan foods and tastes fabulous in/with this recipe.

Again, this is a Use-The-Force recipe. For each serving, use a very thin chicken breast (or a thin piece of veal), lay a piece of prosciutto on the chicken and top with Bourcin cheese (be as liberal as you’d like… this is why I say you’re using The Force). Roll the breast, secure with a toothpick, and sear the roll in olive oil on all sides until nicely browned.

At this point, put the lid on the pan and allow the meat to cook thoroughly. While your dinner is cooking, pop a package of brown rice into the microwave (use whichever brand you like best) and cook according to package directions. When meal is almost completely cooked, remove the lid and add Gewurztraminer to the pan to lift up bits of the cooked cheese and turn it into a sauce. If the sauce seems a little thin, feel free to add a bit of flour or a spoonful of cheese and cook until it thickens to your liking. You can also add a small amount of butter to add some gloss to the sauce.

You’ll want to serve this over the brown rice, with a simple green salad and a glass of Gewurztraminer. I added green beans, wrapped in the remaining prosciutto, and roasted until just cooked. Simple, yet elegant… especially if you love the Gewurztraminer from James River Cellars!

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