Thursday, October 28, 2010

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Leek and Asparagus

(click picture for larger view)

This dish happens to be a healthier version of another chicken recipe that I came up with. I'd like to offer some information regarding the two vegetables on this plate.

Leek: Spring and fall are the high seasons for leek, when they will be small and tender. The edible portions of the leek are the white onion base and light green stalk. The dark green portion is usually discarded, since it has less flavor and as the leek grows, this part becomes woody and very chewy. Leeks have similar nutritional benefits as onions and garlic. They provide a good source of iron, fiber, vitamins B6 and C.

Asparagus: Only young asparagus shoots are commonly eaten. Once the buds start to open, the shoots quickly turn woody and become strongly flavored. It is a highly prized vegetable, which is grown in countries like United States, Mexico, Peru, France and Spain; though it originally came from the Mediterranean region.  

Preparation: My first action was to preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Next, I sliced four thin leeks to about 1/4 inch thin. Then, I chopped about 12 pieces of asparagus into thirds, discarding the hard, non-edible bottom. Afterwards, I placed the veggies in a large bowl with the cleaned chicken breasts. I added olive oil, white wine, fresh rosemary and thyme, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper and a tab of butter to the bowl. Everything was generously mixed together by hand, to coat every "star" of the dish.

Once the oven was heated, I placed the chicken and the veggies into a pyrex dish and then to the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. While the dish is roasting in the oven, I prepare my balsamic reduction, which will be my "garnish" to the plate. For the reduction I used Colavita Balsamic Vinegar. It's not the best, but it's not cheap, so it works (don't use cheap balsamic to reduce). I poured the balsamic into a pot, added freshly sliced garlic, thyme and a bit of sugar. I let the vinegar come to a boil and run for a few minutes then turn down to a simmer for about 10 minutes and removed the garlic. Once it has reduced to 1/2 or a 1/4, remove from heat and place to the side.

Once the chicken is done in the oven, lay it over the leek/asparagus mix and drizzle the balsamic reduction on top to complete the presentation. This is such a juicy chicken dish. I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Salsiccia Rigatoni

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Gimme Some Info: Salsiccia is Italian for sausage. So, here we have "Sausage Rigatoni". The word rigatoni comes from the Italian word rigati, which means “ridged” and is associated with the cuisine of southern and central Italy.

This is a fantastic family-style dish. Along with the pasta and sausage, comes sweet green peas, cherry tomatoes (although you can use various types of tomatoes as long they are in season, i.e, grape, campari and even heirloooms, but they would need to be on the smaller side), cannellini beans (which are white Italian kidney beans) and portabello mushrooms.

Preparation: To start this off, I added garlic and shallots to olive oil. Next, I browned the sausage, then sweat out the mushrooms. In the meantime, I am boiling the rigatoni to slightly less than al dente, set the pasta to the side and preserve a bit of the pasta water. Next, I add vegetable stock, pasta water, tomatoes, then cover with lid. A few minutes before the tomatoes are about to burst, I add the pasta, peas and cannellini beans (they add a great texture to every bite) and allow it to cook in the sauce. Once heated and tomatoes burst, I add chili flake, toss and serve.