Monday, March 31, 2014

Sacre Bleu!

So last Friday night my Husband and his friends had a little get together. Earlier in the week (like an idiot) I had offered to make a dish for it. Come Thursday, I was so tired I was praying that he had forgotten my offer - he didn't (note to self: shut your damn mouth!). So, there I was Thursday afternoon, trying to come up with something that would be fairly easy and inexpensive to make yet not run of the mill - baked ziti was not even being considered! Now, I knew I had chicken thighs in the freezer that I had bought on sale just for these sorts of things so I knew it had to be chicken something or other. What I came up with was Chicken Cordon Bleu Stuffed Shells. The dish came together remarkable easily and made enough to feed a crowd (not a huge crowd but a good number of people). The results got glowing reviews and they disappeared before I could take a picture. I call that a success! Here is the drill:

Chicken Cordon Bleu Stuffed Shells

6 Chicken thighs
16 oz Swiss cheese slices- divided
10 oz ham steaks (I used 4 sandwich sized ones) – chopped fine
8 oz container cottage cheese (I used the smallest individual container they had at the store – just estimating the size here but you could use more or none at all if you wanted to)
1 box Jumbo shells
2-3 cans cream of chicken soup
2 TBS Dijon mustard - divided

Boil chicken thighs in water for an hour or until tender and easily separated from bones. Remove from water and let cool. Add shells to chicken stock. When chicken is cool enough to handle remove skin, fat and bones and chop meat roughly. Add to a large mixing bowl.  Finely dice half of the cheese and add to chicken. Add ham, 1 TBS of mustard and cottage cheese. Add a tsp each salt and pepper and mix everything to combine. This is your filling.

When half cooked (Pliable but still al dente) remove shells from broth using a slotted spoon and let drain. Add soup to chicken/pasta water and 1 TBS mustard and stir until smooth. Coat bottom of roasting pan with soup. Stuff shells with filling and arrange in pan. Pour remaining soup over shells and top with remaining Swiss cheese. Bake 350 for 30 minutes (covered), then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Now, as I previously stated, I was tired and in a rush when making these so I opted to use canned soup for the sauce. You could certainly make a lovely Swiss cheese based cream sauce from scratch if you have the time and energy - I won't discourage you. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I LOVE New York!

I do, I do, I do! It's my favorite place to get away for a day. Typically, I have to bring luggage (or friends or both) to carry all of my goodies. A couple weeks ago two friends and I embarked on a food blitz of Little Italy, Chinatown and the West Village with a quick stop in the Garment District for bagels. So much fun! These are our must stops whenever we go to the City:

Di Palo's - one of the finest Italian delis around, Proscuitto Cotto and di San Danielle, Pecorino tartufola (Black truffle romano), they had the most delicious imported sheeps milk ricotta I have ever taste too. I also tried some of their Sunday Gravy - SO GOOD! The best part is you get to taste everything but you have to be patient, the line moves SLOWLY! I can't wait to go back an try more things!

Alleva Dairy - the best ricotta cheese on the planet! Good stromboli too!

Piemonte Ravioli - I love their manicotti - we did not stop in this trip but it is another favorite place to go when we are on a pasta mission. 2014 UPDATE: I tried their sweet corn ravioli this summer and DAMN it's delicious! We topped it with some pesto from DiPalo's and it was ridiculous!

La Bella Ferrara - Cannoli.

Fiacco's - Sweet Cacciatori, home made sopressata, proscuitto balls, top notch fresh sausage and the best meatball grinder EVER. The chicken cutlet with mozz and pesto is no slouch either! The Italian combo has a good reputation too - I will be trying that next!

Murray's - yes they have cheese but it's the marinated sun-dried and roasted tomatoes that stop me in my tracks. I also like their burrata the best and I make it a point to try EVERYONE's, lol! Not that there is such a thing as a burrata that I do NOT like, theirs just has the right amount of creaminess for me. Di Palo's comes in second. LOL!

Best bagel and coffee - the Garment District best kept secret. Shhhh - keep it under your hat!

Chinatown we get produce - specifically Asian eggplant. It's the only place I can get it out of season - hell, even in season it's tough to find! Why do I care, because it really makes for the best eggplant Parmesan. Just ask Mamma Agata! This summer I am going to try growing some myself! that should be interesting, lol!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Saint Patty Melt!

I have become really disenchanted with Food network these days. They are going the way of MTV. Seriously, remember when they used to have cooking shows on that channel? I mean, I am as busy as the next person but I can get a meal on the table in 30 minutes without any help. However, when it comes to prepping an artichoke...... You see where I am going, right.  Fortunately we still have the original food network - PBS - to fall back on (and yes, I have personally learned to prep and artichoke via this channel).  Oh, how I love my weekends with PBS. Jacque Pepin, Sara Moulton, Lidia Bastianich, Cooks Country, even JULIA!!!! This past weekend it was Cooks Country that got me thinking about patty melts. Oh how I LOVE this sandwich! I hadn't made one in forever. Watching the episode on perfecting it had me thinking about it and salivating. As coincidence would have it, hubby decided to do some grocery shopping and comes home with a loaf of Rye bread. It was like kismet! I HAD to make this sandwich.....and I did! Now, let me tell you a little secret.....I am physically and mentally incapable of making a modest sized burger so I made the most monstrous patty melts EVER! Have a look for yourself:

Yeah Baby! This thing was so big that you actually needed to double up the bread to support it. Now, the Cooks Country recipe called for making a panade of rye bread and milk to keep the patty moist. I did follow their method but honestly, when you are working with patties this big you really don't need it. LOL! Just some well seasoned beef will do the trick. So here are the basics as I see them!

Monster Patty Melt

1/2 pound ground beef (80% lean is recommended)
1 large onion, sliced
4 slices Swiss cheese
Worcestershire Sauce
salt and pepper
4 slices rye bread

Add butter and sliced onions and a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce to pan over medium heat and saute. When soft golden, remove onions and set to the side
Season ground beef generously with salt and pepper and form into 2 patties and add to the pan, turning when browned. Cook patties to medium rare.
Butter the rye bread and assemble sandwiches by placing sauteed onions and 2 cheese slice on each. Top with remaining rye bread slices keeping the buttered sides out. and sandwiches to the pan and grill as if grilled cheese - you may need to turn heat down and I recommend covering the pan to get a good met on the cheese. Turn when bread is grilled and repeat on other side. ENJOY!