Sunday, February 1, 2009

From My Table To Yours..........

I've found something in myself that I never knew existed.....I actually love to cook and bake. My current task is mastering an apple pie, changing the recipe around and making it my own. My neighbor introduced me to Cooks Illustrated cook books and I love them. I've bought many cook books and never found one that I found great all around. I have yet to make something we haven't liked from Cooks Illustrated. I find it fun to try different ingredients and make my own changes, sometimes I improvise using what I already have on hand saving me a trip to the grocery. Since I'm not the type to with hold a good recipe when I find one, I thought it would be fun to post recipes that we've found amazingly good and simple to make. So here is recipe number one, I hope you enjoy!!!

Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apple, and Spiced Pecans
Serves 4

~1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
~Salt and ground black pepper
~1 tablespoon vegetable oil
~1/2 cup water
~1 recipe Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette
~1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces (10 cups) **we used herb salad mix last night and it was tasty too.
~8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes **we used shredded mild cheddar cheese and it was easier and just as good.
~1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced thin **McIntosh apples were awesome, gave a sweeter taste than the granny smiths.
~1 cup store-bought spiced pecans (or you can make your own spiced pecans, recipe below and simple. Last night I used regular pecans right out of the bag/unspiced, not as good but it was easier if your in a hurry.
~1/2 red onion, sliced thin
~1/4 cup dried cranberries

Making The Minutes Count:
While the chicken cooks, make the vinaigrette.

1. BROWN CHICKEN: Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 3 minutes.
(Although we haven't tried it yet, we think grilling the chicken would be better).

2. POACH CHICKEN AND PREPARE VINAIGRETTE: Flip chicken over, add water, and cover. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer to carving board and cool slightly. (While chicken cooks, make vinaigrette).

3. DRESS AND ASSEMBLE SALAD: Toss lettuce, cheddar, apple, pecans, onion and dried cranberries with 3/4 cup of vinaigrette. Divide salad among individual plates. Slice chicken on bias and arrange over greens. Spoon remaining vinaigrette over chicken, or pass separately.

Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/4 cups

~1/4 cup cranberry juice (water instead works just fine)
~1/4 cup dried cranberries
~1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
~1 shallot, peeled
~1 small garlic clove, peeled
~2 teaspoons fresh thyme (I've used dried and it will suffice but wasn't as good).
~2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
~Salt and ground black pepper
~3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. REHYDRATE CRANBERRIES: Combine cranberry juice (or water) and dried cranberries in microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until hot, about 1 minute.

2. BLEND VINAIGRETTE: Process hot cranberry mixture, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in blender until shallot and garlic are finely chopped, about 15 seconds. With blender running, add oil and continue to process until smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds.

Quick Spiced Pecans
Make about 2 cups

~2 tablespoons unsalted butter
~Salt and ground black pepper
~1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
~1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
~1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
~2 cups pecan halves
~1 tablespoon sugar

Melt butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, then stir in pecans. Toast nuts, stirring often, until color of nuts depends slightly, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to bowl, toss with sugar, then spread out on plate to cool.

***can be stored in a zip lock bag at room temp for up to one week, be sure to shake off access sugar if putting into salads***

***when I put the chicken on top of the salad, I took a spoon full of the dressing and drizzled it on top of the chicken....this made for a really nice presentation***



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