Friday, March 28, 2014
Consciously Regaining My Groove
I haven't been in the cooking mood lately. Rather, I haven't been making anything that either works or is worth posting about lately. I'm sorry, even us food professionals fall flat occasionally.
I've been trying to figure out what the problem has been. Is it that it's just the two of us, or is it that nothing is really appealing to me lately? I've been trying to cut back on the amount of bread and sugar I've been eating, but is that why? I doubt it. Rather, I am choosing to attribute my lack of interest in the kitchen to current events.
Gwyneth and Chris have announced that they are consciously uncoupling. What?
Gwyneth is a tough person to like. It's not as though most of us can identify with her. For one, no woman of her age should look as good as she does. It's just not fair to the rest of us. And as much of a shopper as I am, I do not curate my wardrobe. I also cannot imagine anything more unpleasant or unappealing than subjecting myself to the Tracy Anderson Method seven days a week. Or even one day a week. This latest new-agey divorce declaration has done nothing to make me like her more. If she and Chris, (who btw has been wise to fly under the radar of her self important empire) can actually grow spiritually through their conscious uncoupling well, then they are far better people than I could ever aspire to be. Make no mistake, I would be no picnic to uncouple from.
I used to think Gwynnie and I could be friends. We both like to cook, and we're both mothers. Lifelong friendships have been built on far less. But then she went all holier than thou on me. I have enough trouble occasionally posting to my blog and getting myself on the treadmill every morning. I just could never handle the pressure of even having Gwynnie as a neighbor. Nope, sad as I am to admit it, Gwynnie and I could never go the distance.
But I digress. A lot. Back to dinner. I actually consciously forced myself to make a dinner worth eating last night. It wasn't complicated, but it was surprisingly delicious. Baby steps. I even diverted from my normal salad of romaine, tomatoes, mushrooms, and kalamata olives.
I was consciously ambitious... At least for a moment.
Pan-fried Balsamic Pear Salad with Pancetta, Gorgonzola and a Warm Honey Dressing
Two 5-ounce bags baby arugula
16 slices pancetta, about 6 ounces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 pears, peeled, cored and quartered
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
6 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Distribute the arugula evenly among four serving plates. Put the pancetta into a medium skillet over medium-high heat and cook until really crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Put 2 tablespoons butter and the oil into the skillet and reduce the heat to low. When the butter has melted, place the pears in the pan and season with salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons honey. Turn up the heat to medium and cook until the pears are lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and cook for another minute. Remove the pears from the pan, reserving any juices that may be left.
Arrange the pears and pancetta on top of the arugula so each serving has 4 pear quarters and 4 slices pancetta. Put the pan back on medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, remaining 1 tablespoon honey, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, mustard, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Cook briefly until the dressing is heated through. Pour the dressing over the salads, then scatter over the gorgonzola crumbles. Serve immediately.
Baked Kitchen-Cupboard Chicken with Lime, Honey and Soy
8 chicken pieces (either drumsticks or thighs, or a mix of the two), skin removed
8 garlic cloves, peeled and gently crushed
1 tsp chili powder
Leaves from 3–4 sprigs of thyme
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh mint leaves or flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp English mustard powder
1⁄2 tsp soy sauce
1⁄2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Zest of 1 lime
1 1⁄4 cups chicken stock
2 tsp corn starch
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the chicken pieces in a large roasting pan with the garlic, chili powder, thyme, lime juice and salt and pepper. Lay them out in a single layer and pop them into the oven to bake for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the honey, mustard powder, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and lime zest in a small bowl to give a sticky glaze.
Once the chicken has been cooking for 10 minutes, remove it from the oven and brush over half of the glaze. Then brush over the remaining glaze after another 10 minutes of cooking. Pop it back into the oven for the remaining 5 minutes or until the chicken is piping hot in the center and cooked through. Remove from the oven, transfer the pieces to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Put the roasting pan on high heat on the stovetop. Pour in all but about 3 tablespoons of the chicken stock, stirring all the time and scraping up any yumminess from the bottom of the pan. Blend the corn starch with the remaining stock to give a smooth liquid and pour this into the pan, stirring constantly. Let this bubble away for 2–3 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened. The sauce may have a few lumps, which you can just sieve out before serving if you like. Season to taste and remove from the heat.
Serve two pieces of chicken per person with a little sauce poured over and a scattering of mint leaves or flat leaf parsley on top.