3 Luscious Chickens, 2 Flavorful Canapes…and a Perfect Pear Treat!

By Published On: July 31st, 2012Categories: Appetizers, Chicken, Meals0 Comments

My brother loves to cook as much as I do and I just had the pleasure of a visit from he and his wife, which gave us the chance to cook together!  We made Skip’s famous Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken.  We did so much eating this weekend that by the time we came to the Lemon Garlic Chicken we served it simply with grilled zuchinni and summer squash (from my own little garden!) and a few grilled jumbo shrimp creating a surf and barnyard.  Here is Skip’s recipe…

SKIP’S LEMON GARLIC GRILLED CHICKEN
Ingredients:
4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in thirds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 Lemons, juice and a little zest
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt/Pepper
A pinch of red hot pepper
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Preparation:
Mix all ingredients and place in a zip lock bag to marinate for a few hours in the refrigerator. Every once in awhile, give the bag a shake to make sure all pieces benefit equally from the marinade.
Get your grill hot, spray with cooking oil and gently grill the chicken pieces for about 4 minutes per side. I like to spin the pieces 2 minutes into the cooking to give them a nice cross hatch, but it is really not necessary.
This dish is so easy and the fresh basil and lemon really pop the flavor.  After the fact I was thinking it might be nice to serve with a lemon garlic alioli. I am going to try that next time!
Here’s another chicken dish I made recently for my sister-in-law, Chickie.  She also likes to cook and brought a fabulous pasta Greek salad which was the perfect accompaniment for:
GREEK STYLE CHICKEN BREASTS
Chickie getting ready to dig in!
We completed this meal with zuchinni halves grilled under the broiler with a little feta cheese, salt/pepper and fresh oregano.

I like to stuff and roll chicken breasts with different ingredients and I love Greek food so this idea came together easily and was moist and delicious!

Ingredients:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, flattened*
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves very finely chopped garlic
2 cups baby spinach leaves, stemmed
2 Roasted Red Peppers (see previous blog for ‘how to roast’)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 Tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. prepared or homemade basil pesto
Salt/Pepper/Red pepper flakes

Chicken Breasts ready to bake.

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pound the breasts. Put 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a shallow casserole dish. Coat the chicken breasts in the oil and place in dish with inside of breast up. Sprinkle with the garlic.  Divide the spinach leaves among the 4 breasts. Lay the roasted red pepper on top of the spinach and add the feta cheese and the oregano. Gently roll the chicken breasts tucking in the ingredients (the peppers are a little slippery).  Rub about 1 Tbsp. of basil pesto over each chicken breast and finish with a sprinkle of hot red pepper. You don’t need to tie these breasts because they stay together quite well without trussing.

Bake for about 25 minutes (depending on how big your breats are). Let rest for 5 minutes and slice and serve.

* To flatten the chicken breasts, place between a sheet of plastic wrap and pound with any heavy object (bread board, frying pan, meat pounder, rolling pin, etc.) until the breast is an even thickness of about 3/8 inch.

Left-over Queen strikes again!  We did not eat all the Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken so tonight I made a Chicken Alfredo and served over whole grain spaghetti. A sliced tomato was all that we needed to complete this meal. So yummy and a great way to use the left-over chicken.

LEMON GARLIC CHICKEN ALFREDO

Ingredients:
Left-over Lemon/Garlic Chicken, cut into small pieces
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3/4 cup mozzarella
Fresh chopped basil for the chicken
Fresh chopped chives for the tomatoes

Alfredo Sauce: Heat 3 Tbsp. butter, 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a frying pan. Add 2 cups heavy cream, 1/4 tsp. white pepper, minced garlic and bring to a brisk simmer. Stir and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add cheeses and stir frequently for another 8-10 minutes until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy.

Because this was a “left-over” meal that I had not planned in advance, I did not have all the proper ingredients for an Alfredo so I had to make some substitutions.

Alternative Alfredo Sauce:
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/4 cup Half and Half
3/4 cup Almond Milk (All I had was the sweetened almond milk, which presented a challenge!)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
Salt/Black Pepper
1/3 pound cream cheese
1/2 cup parmesan

Prepare as above. The cream cheese and ground ginger took the edge of the sweet. This sauce turned out to be fantastic and although not as rich or creamy as a traditional Alfredo Sauce, it was pretty darn good!

Cook your pasta (8 minutes for aldente); toss the chopped chicken and serve mix thoroughly.  Garnish the Lemon Garlic Chicken Alfredo with chopped basil and the tomato with chopped chives.  This is a simple, fast way to use any type of left-over chicken!

The first canape (aka hors d’oeuvres!) I want to share is one of my all-time favorites…

OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER

This dish was created in the late 1800’s in New Orleans by Jules Alciatore of Antoine’s Restaurant. He named it after John D. Rockefeller as this classic appetizer is likewise rich!

In New England, in the summer, we eat a lot of fresh seafood and shellfish. Oysters any way are wonderful, but almost everyone likes them cooked!  This is a recipe that can also be altered in so many different ways (add fresh chopped watercress, minced garlic,celery, top with a little mozzarello, splash of white wine, chmpagne, orange zest, tarragon, USE YOUR IMAGINATION!).  This is a classic, but there is no rule stating that you cannot embellish Chef Alciatore’s original!  Here is the basic recipe for Oysters Rockefeller.

Ingredients:
2 dozen Oysters (I use the local Cape Cod oyster which is a Wellfleet.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (day-old baguette or whole grain or use Panko)
2 cups baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped scallions, both white and green parts
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
3 plus 1 additional Tbsp. unsalted butter
Pinch of cayenne
Salt/Pepper
1/4 cup Pernod or other anise flavored liquor (this is where the white wine or champagne could be used)
3 bacon slices
Preparation:
Toss together spinach, scallion, parsley, 1 1/2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs in a bowl.  Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a heavy skillet over moderate heat; add garlic and cook for a couple minutes, add spinach mixture and cook until spinach is just wilted-1 to 2 minutes. Stir in Pernod, cayenne, and salt/pepper. Transfer mixture to a bowl and chill, covered until cold-about 1 hour. (This also falls into my make-ahead category making the big dinner party much easier to prepare!) Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter; add the last of the bread crumbs and set aside. While the spinach mixture is chilling, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and finely crumble.

Open the oysters; easier said than done! An oyster knife really helps, but it still took me a lot of practice to get these things opened and I am by no means fast at it. Insert the point of the knife in the little opening that presents at the oyster hinge. Drive it in, twist and run the knife along the edge of the oyster. The oyster SHOULD pop open. Run the knife under the oyster to loosen so when you serve the Rockefeller your guests are not fighting to get the oyster off the shell.  Remove any broken shell pieces and clean bottom of shell if necessary.  Do not rinse or drain off the oyster liquor.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Traditionally Oysters Rockefeller are baked on a bed (approximately 10 cups) of coarse kosher salt. I do not do this as I think it is wasteful and not necessary, although the thinking is that the salt helps distribute the heat quickly and evenly.  I just place the oysters in a large, shallow casserole (9×13 works well), and spoon the chilled spinach mixture evenly on top of each oyster. Top with crumbled bacon and finish with the last of the buttered bread crumbs. Bake until the edges of the oysters begin to curl and bread crumbs are golden-about 10-12 minutes. Serve warm in the shells.

WHEN NOT TO EAT OYSTERS…there is an old myth that you should NOT eat oysters in a month that does not have an “R”-May through August. In warmer months oysters, and other shellfish, contain a higher level of marine bacteria, called Vibrio, which can cause an upset stomach. Durng the cooler months-September through April, the bacteria is still present, but not in as great a quantity. Cooking kills the bacteria so it really is OK to eat cooked shellfish in any month. Some medical conditions warrant that you never eat raw shellfish, no matter what month, and should always eat it cooked thoroughly.

Since I am feeling Greek tonight, I want to share a recipe for healthy stuffed grape leaves from Dr. Andrew Weil. I subscribe to Dr. Weil’s free online recipes. Although I believe in cooking and eating anything you want, within reason, I do try to make a vegetarian meal at least once a week and I often turn to Dr. Weil’s recipes for a low-fat choice. Here is the link to his healthy cooking and recipe site:
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/PAG00318/Dr-Weils-Healthy-Kitchen.html

These stuffed grape leaves are easy to make, can be made ahead of time, and will disappear once you serve them.

DR. ANDREW WEIL’S STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES

Ingredients:
FILLING
2 cups vegetable stock (I use home-made chicken stock which I always like to keep on hand in the freezer.)
1 cup brown rice
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup grated radish
1/3 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
1/2 cup minced celery
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. white wine vinegar (Rice vinegar or champagne vinegar also work well.)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup currants or yellow raisons
1/4 cup pinenuts
Salt/Black Pepper
1 Tbsp. capers

36 grape leaves*
Bunch of chives
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the rice and salt. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 45 minutes or until rice is tender. Water should be absorbed. Fluff up the rice.

Mix together the rice and all other ingredients; toss thoroughly.

Rinse grape leaves. Gently pat them dry. Spread the leaves out and spoon 1-2 Tbsp. of the filling on the end of each leaf. Some of the leaves may be torn so you may have to patch to create a solid base for rolling. Roll up, folding the outer edges in to form a pocket.
(I did not do this next step, but it sounds like fun! Instead I served with lemon slices.) Take three 5″ long chives and dip briefly in boiling water to make them more pliable. Tie them around each stuffed grap leaf.

Place the leaves in a small casserole dish and drizzle 1 tsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice over them. (I used a little more olive oil.) Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm or cold. I served them cold which allowed the flavors to meld.

*Canned or bottled grape leaves can be found in the International section of your grocery store.

ON TO DESSERT…

POACHED PEARS

I make a lot of different poached pears: Stuffed with Roquefort and Walnuts in Pastry; Poached in Port with Cranberries; Roasted Pears with Balsamic Creme Anglaise, Caramel Sauce, and this wonderful recipe…

POACHED PEARS WITH GINGER AND PORT

Ingredients:
a 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
2 firm Bartlett, Anjou, or Comice pears with stem intact*
3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Tawny Port
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Preparation:
Peel ginger root and slice thin. Cut slices into thin strips. In a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears lying on their sides bring 3 to 4 cups water to boil with ginger root, sugar, port and lemon juice, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Peel pears, leaving stems intact, and cut a thin slice from the bottom of each if necessary to enable pears to stand upright when served.  Arrange pears on their sides in poaching liquid adding enough water to cover if they are not already submerged. Simmer pears, turning them occasionally, until tender; 20 to 40 minutes, depending on their ripeness. Carefully transfer pears with a slotted spoon to a bowl and boil poaching liquid until reduced to about 1/4 cup and slightly syrupy.  Pour sauce over pears.  You can make pears a day ahead of time and cool in sauce before being chilled, covered. Serve pears warm or chilled.

You do not need a recipe to poach pears. Use any combination of spices (cinnamon is great); herbs (tarragon, basil or mint work well); red wine; port wine; brandy, etc., etc.  Once they are poached they are fabulous wrapped in puff pastry and baked, served with cinnamon whipped cream or creme anglaise or brandy cream sauce.

*When I lived in Jamaica Plain in the 1980’s, one of Boston’s neighborhoods, I had the most fantastic old and prolific pear tree in my back yard.  I have never had pears so good before or after. Unfortunately I was not able to identify their heritage, but they were sweet with perfect texture.  I made pear everything during the late summer months into the fall.  Poaching ripe, freshly picked pears, by far, make the nicest and most flavorful poached pears.

I am closing today with the debut of my new cooks coat.  I cannot wait to christen my new costume!

Thank you again many times over for sharing my love of cooking and creating in the kitchen.

Happy meals to you until next time with:

www.cookwithcindy.com

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