Chicken Vesuvio

Chicken Vesuvio

This made a delicious meal, and only took about an hour from start to finish.

Although the traditional steakhouse version uses bone-in thigh quarters or half chickens, I used boneless skinless breasts so I didn’t have to worry about crisping the skin. I cut two 3/4 pound breasts into sixths, seasoned with garlic powder, salt and pepper, and browned for five minutes per side in a skillet with some olive oil. I removed the chicken and sautéed the halves of maybe ten small Yukon Gold potatoes cut side down for ten minutes. After removing the potatoes, I added a teaspoon each of oregano and thyme, a little salt, plus two pressed cloves of fresh garlic to the pan, and cooked until they were fragrant (less than a minute). Then I added 3/4 cup of Sauvignon Blanc to deglaze, and a cup or two of chicken broth. Then the chicken and potatoes went back in the pot to simmer for maybe half-an-hour. Finally, I reserved those to a platter, and finished the pan sauce with a little butter and a cup of frozen peas that had been thawed.

The only complaints were that there should have been more peas, and the potatoes were a little unevenly done. Next time I’ll double the peas, and maybe cut the potatoes in fourths instead of halves.

Chicken was done and flavors were perfect, though.

Chicago Deep Dish

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

It’s probably no secret that pizza is one of our family’s favorite foods. Ordering a pizza on Friday night was our routine for literally years when we were first married. Both of my sons worked for a time in our favorite pizza joint where we used to live. We still enjoy a good restaurant pie from time to time, whether thin and crackly crust, thick and chewy or Chicago style deep dish.

We’ve also always made our own pizzas at home, first using store-bought crusts, then eventually making them from scratch. Finding the dough recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day made a huge difference in the quality of our home-made pizzas.

In addition to baking pizza on the grill we love this version of deep dish, and have been making it for the better part of a decade now. It draws on a recipe from Lou Malati’s in Chicago.

I start by prepping a ball of one-quarter of the dough from a batch of the AB5 recipe linked above. My iron skillet gets a liberal spray of olive oil, and then a good dusting of corn meal before the dough is spread out in the bottom. I press it down and out until it comes up the side of the pan about a quarter to half an inch.

Then comes a layer of Provolone slices to cover the bottom. After that, the rest of the toppings go on in repeating layers – shredded spinach, sliced mushrooms, shredded Mozzarella, canned diced tomatoes with herbs and garlic. Then finally it gets topped with some grated Parm or Romano, and maybe a tiny grind of black pepper and some coarse salt. About 30 to 40 minutes in a 425 °F oven, and it’s ready.

We’ve added other ingredients in the past, black olives, sausage, pepperoni or what have you. But this simple combination of spinach, mushrooms, cheese and tomatoes is my favorite. The bright tartness of the tomatoes is a perfect counterpoint to the earthy, savory veggies and cheese. It’s hearty, satisfying and the first bite literally makes my mouth water.

With the dough made ahead of time, this meal is not terribly labor intensive either. I think it took me about fifteen minutes to put together, and then maybe another five to assemble green salads on the side while the pie was cooling after it came out of the oven. Quick and delicious is always welcome on a Friday evening after a long work week.

This is another dish that I’d encourage you to try. It could hardly be simpler to prepare, and I guarantee that it’ll hit the spot. If you’re hesitant to make your own dough from scratch, you shouldn’t be, but you could probably use a boxed dough mix, or even buy a ball or two from your favorite local pizzeria if you’re on good terms with them.

Buon appetito!

Quiche!

quiche-florentine

For a simple and delicious dish it’s hard to beat the classic French custard tart. Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal had an article about Quiche, and I didn’t wait long to make one.

Since this was a quick meal on a Tuesday evening, I used a frozen pie crust, and cooked it in the oven, but I hope to make my own pastry dough and bake one in the Weber Genesis soon.

We opted for Quiche Florentine instead of the more standard Quiche Lorraine, thinking that the spinach would be a bit more healthy than bacon. I chopped up a couple cups of fresh spinach and put them in the bottom of the crust, shredded a cup of Emmental Swiss on top, and then poured the custard mixture over it. Since I didn’t have whole milk, I used three eggs and 1 1/4 cups of skim, plus a little salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence and fresh grated nutmeg. It baked at 375 F for about 40 minutes. It turned out a little watery from the skim milk, so I’d definitely use whole next time and adjust the proportions to 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cup of the milk, which is how Julia Child’s recipe goes.

It was tasty, none the less. We served it with a mixed spring greens salad and a nice glass of Spanish Rosé, the perfect rustic and elemental meal for a summer weeknight.

Calling a dish “Florentine” or “à la Florentine” dates back to 16th Century France, by the way. Catherine de Médicis, from Florence, married the French Dauphine (heir to the throne), Henri. She brought her own cooks with her, and they brought spinach seeds, which had not been grown in France prior to their arrival. So “in the style of Florence” means “with spinach.”

The folks at WSJ Off Duty also made this podcast episode about Quiche which I thought was fun.

Make America quiche again.

Perfecting Eggplant Parmigiana

One of the things we like best about the Weber Genesis is the ability to cook a quick meal outdoors on a summer evening, and we delight in finding ways to adapt recipes that we would usually cook inside. Eggplant has turned out to be one of our favorite vegetables to  take to the gas grill. The charring and smoke add a depth of flavor to dishes like Eggplant Parmigiana without the mess and added fats of the traditional fried cooking method.

We’ve been refining this recipe for nearly three years now, and finally have it more or less perfect. The eggplant gets sliced into rounds about a quarter of an inch thick, salted on both sides and placed on a wire rack to sweat for an hour or so. This step is less about seasoning and more about drawing out some of the moisture and bitterness. We wipe off the salt, and then each slice gets a quick dip in some beaten egg before getting dredged in a mixture of seasoned Italian and Japanese breadcrumbs. The Panko crumbs add some additional crunch to the breading, which is important since we’re not frying.

Then the eggplant goes on the plancha on the pre-heated Genesis, after a little olive oil spray. It only takes a few minutes to get them nicely charred on the outside and fairly tender throughout. Then they go into a foil pan with cheese and sauce, and back out to the Genesis to finish cooking and warming through over indirect heat. We serve them with whatever pasta strikes our fancy.

The whole family agreed that this last batch we cooked was the most delicious we’d ever tasted.