Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

I’ve never liked brussel sprouts. I can recall once that I’ve eaten more than two in one sitting. It was at a local restaurant and the roasted brussel sprouts were covered in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and came as an accidental side to the dish I’d ordered. Then one day Miss A’s best friend’s mom introduced me to these magical, delectable, drool-worthy brussel sprouts. I’ve eaten them four times in the last two weeks. The leftovers are even good microwaved the next day!

Ingredients:
1 package brussel sprouts
4-6 slices of your favorite bacon
olive oil*
white wine or chicken stock (can also use vegetable stock)
maple syrup
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425. Cook the bacon until crisp in an oven proof pan. While the bacon is cooking, rinse the brussel sprouts under cool water. Chop off the ends and peel off the outer leaves. (I have no idea why you do this, you just do.) when the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan leaving the drippings. Then crumble the bacon. If you don’t think you have enough drippings *add a bit of the olive oil. Over medium to medium-high heat, sautee the brussel sprouts until they start to caramelize, stirring occasionally. Use white wine or chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Add the brussle sprouts to the oven. Cook for about 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. If you think the brussel sprouts are getting too done, add some more of the white wine or stock. Remove the brussel sprouts and while the pan is still hot drizzle maple syrup over the cooked brussel sprouts. Stir again. Salt and pepper the brussel sprouts. Stir. Add the crumbled bacon. Stir. Serve warm.

My opinion:
I really, really, really like this dish. It’s very hard not to eat the whole pan in one sitting.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

We’ve been using our crockpot quite a bit lately. We’ve also discovered the wonderful boneless skinless chicken thighs from one of our favorite grocery stores (or go-see store as our toddler calls them). The benefit of cooking the thighs in the crockpot is they dry out less and are more flavorful than the traditional chicken breasts. Cooking Light’s crockpot recipes have become a go-to source. I did not expect this recipe to be as good as it was. Even the toddler ate some of it!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken stock)
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano (we ended up using dried)
1/4 cup drained capers
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (we left this out because the toddler was eating with us)
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (28-oz.) container diced tomatoes (such as Pomì) (I accidentally used only the 14.5 ounce can)
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, quartered (the grocery store was out of these, so we just left them out)
8 (6-oz.) bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 3 lb.) (we only had three boneless ones left, it worked fine)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken in half
5 ounces baby spinach
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

Directions:
Combine 1/2 cup water and flour in your favorite crockpot, stirring with a whisk. (Note: You can also use corn starch, which we will do next time.) Stir in stock and next 8 ingredients (through mushrooms). Add chicken thighs to the stock mixture; submerge in liquid. Cover and cook on LOW 7 1/2 hours (ours cooked about 9). Remove chicken. Leave whole or chop if using boneless skinless. If using bone-in, wait for them to cool, then remove bones.
Add oil and pasta to slow cooker sauce; cover and cook on HIGH 15 minutes or until pasta is done to your liking. (It took a little longer than 15 minutes for us.) Stir in spinach until wilted. Divide pasta mixture and top evenly with chicken. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

My opinion:
I didn’t expect the capers to add so much to the dish. It was the right amount of salt and sweet from the tomatoes. The pasta cooked perfectly. Next time, I will use the corn starch and reduce the amount of liquid a little for the initial cooking phase. If we need more to cook the pasta, I’ll add more at that time. All in all a good, flavorful dish that is perfect for a weeknight.

Pan-Roasted Chicken With Leeks

Pan roasted chicken and leeks
Now that we’re getting more comfortable with the No Six Diet restrictions, we are also getting a little more adventurous with adapting recipes. J bought some leeks for another recipe we scrapped and we weren’t entirely sure what to do with them. Luckily, my mom was visiting and suggested a chicken and leeks dish that she’s made several times. It turned out perfectly!

Ingredients:
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4-6 chicken breasts, cut in half
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to season the chicken)
3 cloves garlic, smashed or a teaspoon and a half of minced garlic
1 bunch leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
6 ounces sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet (we used out cast iron dutch oven) and cook over medium-high heat until some of the fat renders, about 5 minutes. Push the bacon to the side of the pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then add it to the pan and cook, turning once, until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan. Stir in the garlic and leeks, then arrange the chicken on top of the bacon-leek mixture. Whisk in the corn starch in the chicken stock. Add the stock and wine to the pot. Transfer to the oven. Set the timer for about 20 to 25 minutes. Check the chicken and if the broth has mostly evaporated, add more stock to keep everything moist. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice.

My opinion:
I couldn’t get enough of this dish! I wished there was more!

p.s. Summer 2016 update: Our toddler likes this dish! If we’re making it to eat with her, we use a little more chicken broth and a little less wine. 

Oyster shucking at home and chargrilled oyster recipe

Oysters are amazingly delicious, but not easy to get in to. It can be intimidating to open an oyster, particularly after seeing the professionals use special chain-mail oyster-shucking glove and knife. After our jaunt to New Orleans in March, we decided not to be intimidated by oyster opening anymore. Plus, we really wanted to recreate the chargrilled oyster recipe from Acme Oyster house.

What you’ll need: An oven mitt, a flat-head screwdriver and a pairing knife serve as a low-cost alternative to the traditional tools.

First set the Oyster  flat side up.  Second, near the hinge, insert the flathead screwdriver between the shells. Then twist to pop the oyster open.IMG_0360

It might take a few tries. IMG_0359

Use the screwdriver to twist and pry the oyster all the way around if it doesn’t just pop open. IMG_0358 IMG_0361 IMG_0362

Eventually, you’ll see the oyster flesh. IMG_0363

Scrape the oyster from the top shell. Then lift the top completely off. Take the pairing knife and release the oyster from the bottom shell. Now, you’re ready to move on to the recipe.

For the Chargrilled oysters we adapted this recipe from Food.com to mimic the dish we had at Acme Oyster house.

Ingredients:
12 fresh shucked oysters, on the half shell (we found these whole at Lucky’s in our town)
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
10 garlic cloves, pureed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 ounce white wine
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Directions:
Place in a baking dish (we used a pie pan) filled with ice cream salt (to keep the oysters steady) with the meat up. Melt half the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add your lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, green onions and all herbs and seasonings. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, and then stir in the wine. Keep stirring and remove from heat as soon as the green onions wilt. Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rest of the butter and stir until completely incorporated.  Heat grill to 350 degrees and place oysters without the sauce on grill.
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When the oyster liquor starts to bubble, spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce on top of each, then top with 1 tablespoon of Romano cheese. Let the cheese melt. When oysters begin to slightly brown at the edges, remove from grill and place on a heat proof plate or tray.  Top each oyster with an additional tablespoon of the butter sauce and serve immediately with slices of French bread for dipping. Garnish with minced Parsley. Serve while still sizzling with Lemon wedges and fresh bread.

Note: It stormed the day we made this and there was no way we were going to grill, so we just made use of the broiler on high in our oven. It worked perfectly. Just make sure to keep an eye on the dish while it is under the broiler, you can go from perfect to burnt pretty quickly.

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My opinion:
The only thing missing was the family-style tables and neon signs.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck Garlic Shrimp


The hardest part of returning to the mainland from Hawai’i is leaving behind the ocean, the views and the food. Luckily, a few of our favorite dishes aren’t that difficult to recreate. Giovanni’s Shrimp truck is legendary.  It’s in all the Oahu guide books and is worth the amazingly scenic drive. The menu is simple: shrimp scampi, spicy shrimp and lemon butter shrimp. We started our recreation with the easier scampi. With the help of Google, we found this YouTube video, which gave us the ingredients and a few tips.

Ingredients:
Extra large shrimp, deveined, shell on
1 head (10 cloves) garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (1 tablespoon for spicier tastes)
1/2 stick clarified butter 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup white wine (dry)
2 tablespoons regular butter

Directions:
Pat the shrimp dry. In a gallon zip top bag, mix the flour, paprika and cayenne pepper. Add shrimp and coat each piece of shrimp with the mixture. Heat saute pan over medium-high heat (any higher and the garlic will burn). Add clarified butter and garlic. Stir for 1 minute, then add all of the shrimp. Saute 3 minutes on each side. After 3 minutes on the second side, add the wine and 2 tablespoons butter. Saute, turning shrimp occasionally, until it reaches a caramel brown color.

My opinion:
We had way more shrimp than would fit in one pan! The next time we make this, I will be using the wok, as that would probably keep the garlic from burning. As we had about three pounds of shrimp total, we ended up using the entire bottle of wine. We’ll also probably take the shells off instead of leaving them on as we really like the coating. All in all, it was very close to the deliciousness that is Giovanni’s. Now if only it came with a side of the ocean…