Monday, November 23, 2009

Quick, Easy Chinese Chicken

With the holidays fast approaching (when did that happen?), I like to have some easy recipes to rely on for quick weeknight meals. I found this recipe for Quick, Easy Chinese Chicken in Cooking Light years ago. I ripped the recipe out of the magazine, so I don’t know exactly how old it is, but there is an add for a Jane Fonda exercise VHS video, if that gives you an idea.

Quick, Easy Chinese Chicken is a standby for me. I can put this recipe together in minutes, it does take 45 minutes in the oven, but I can use that time to accomplish something else. This was my daughter’s favorite meal until Creamy Baked Penne came along to bump it off, but both my kids are happy when I tell them we are having Chinese Chicken for dinner. This is also my go-to recipe to take to a sick friend. It keeps well, and freezes well if my friends end up with too much food.

Quick, Easy Chinese Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light
6 to 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1 Tablespoon dried minced onions
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the oven 375°F Place the chicken in a 1½ quart baking dish. Combine the next 6 ingredients and pour over the chicken. Bake for 45 minutes. Serves 4.

Monday, November 16, 2009

French Dinner Part II

You can’t have a French dinner party without, well, dinner, so it is high time I told you about my French dinner. I love Ina Garten’s Food Network show and I love her cookbooks. She really has a great style. Her Barefoot in Paris cookbook has been an inspiration to me, and I have wanted to try her Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic for over a year. So, once I bought my inspirational napkins, I decided to make Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic with mashed potatoes and green beans.
We started dinner with radicchio fennel and walnut salad. I had made this salad once before when I had my “comfort food” dinner party. I served it with a delicious onion tart. This time I served the radicchio salad by itself. I liked the salad the better first time. I think the onion tart cut the bitterness of the radicchio in the salad. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy this salad, but I like it better with the onion tart.
Radicchio, Fennel, and Walnut Salad
Adapted from Festive Occasions Cookbook by Chuck Williams and Joyce Goldstein
2 small heads radicchio
2 small fennel bulbs
6 Tablespoons toasted walnut oil
3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup toasted walnuts

Trim the radicchio and separate the leaves, and wash well if the leaves are sandy, and dry well. Remove the stems from the fennel and cut the bulbs into quarters. Remove the hard center cores and any discolored outer portions. Slice the fennel thinly. Combine the walnut oil, olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Marinate the toasted walnuts in ¼ of the vinaigrette for 15 minutes. Toss the Radicchio, fennel and walnuts in the remaining vinaigrette. Divide among six plates.

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Adapted from Barefoot In Paris by Ina Garten
3 heads of garlic, about 40 cloves, peeled
12 bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons Cognac or Brandy, divided
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the chicken in batches skin side down first about 3 to 5 minutes per side or until nicely browned. When the batch is done, remove the chicken to a plate, and continue with another batch until all chicken has been browned. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of oil in the Dutch oven, and then put it back on the heat. Add whole garlic cloves to the pot and lower the heat. Sauté the garlic for 5 to 10 minutes turning it often and cook until evenly browned. Add two tablespoons of brandy and the wine, and return to a boil scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pot with any juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes or until all the chicken is done. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. In a small bowl whisk together ½ cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream, and simmer for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce and garlic over the chicken and serve hot.

Sandy made these fabulous cream puffs with chocolate for dessert. I don’t have her recipe. Yet…

Monday, November 9, 2009

French Themed Dinner Party

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I love themed parties. From my son’s birthday parties, (Star Wars, Pokemon, Get Smart) to our fundraising cocktail parties (Tiki, Fist Full of Cocktails), I just love themed parties. I think themed parties are easy. Once I decide on a theme, everything else seems to fall into place. You might think I’m crazy (Wow, I just went back to my college days with that phrase), but I even like to have a theme for dinner parties. I don’t always have a theme, but I like it when I do. The first time I hosted a dinner club, my theme was comfort food, and I followed that up with a Cuban inspired dinner.
I chose French country for my latest dinner party theme. It might have been the movie Julie and Julia that inspired me to have a French themed dinner, but I really think it was the napkins I purchased. I love these napkins, although they do feel a bit like you're wiping your mouth on the couch, but the colors are perfect, and they inspired me to create a dinner party around them. I know, I know…but we all have our inspirations.
I think I was able to pull together a credible French table. Maybe not a typical one, but I think it had a French feel. I’m lucky my mother-in-law had some beautiful china she passed to me. This set is Melrose from Grindley, which I thought worked nicely with my table.

Check out the bird candle holders—aren’t they hilarious? And, I really scored with my glassware purchase. I love the depression glass look of these glasses.
As for dinner on Saturday night, we invited two families to join us, but Tammy and Tom had a sick kid, and didn’t want to share the wealth. We missed them, but appreciated the decision. So Sandy and Brian and the kids joined us on Saturday night for our French dinner. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in how many people I can invite over, that I forget how fun it is to just have one or two families join us. Les and I had a great time with Sandy and Brian. The evening was fun, intimate and relaxing.

I started us off with some tapenade, toast and Brie. We nibbled on these snacks while dinner finished cooking. My son loved the tapenade. He is still snacking on the leftovers!

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe on
½ pound good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 baguette, sliced and toasted

Combine the olives, capers, anchovies and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and pulse 3 times. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, thyme and parsley and process until chunky. Serve with toasts.


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