Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

The rocky economy of contract negotiations and lay offs at the factory where my dad worked sent my mom back to the job market when I was a toddler. The truth is that my mother's feminism was borne more of necessity than her desire to be independent.

One dish dinners were the way to go and one of my favorites was chicken and rice. Okay, so I am guilty of being a little snobby about recipes that start with a can of soup. But I loved that casserole and so came up with an alternative that has a little more sophisticated flavor but still satisfies the comfort food zone.

There's a song lyric Farmer Paul and I sang to our sons when they were young, "Chicken is nice with palm butter and rice." It's a fun song, one of those catchy tunes kids like and laugh at. There's no butter in my recipe. I tend to substitute olive oil every chance I get.  I'm willing to bet folk singer Dave Van Ronk would have enjoyed this casserole just the same!

CHICKEN & RICE
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 small onion, grated
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half and half
1 cup raw, medium or long grain, white rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning 
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil using a large oven proof sauté pan on stovetop burner set to medium high heat. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Lightly brown the chicken pieces. Remove chicken pieces and set aside in a bowl. Chicken should not be cooked through, only browned.

In the same sauté pan add another tablespoon of olive oil, lower the heat to medium, add the onion, and cook about 3 minutes. Add wine to the pan to deglaze the pan, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let wine cook down a bit, then add the chicken stock, and remove from heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, the cream, and the sour cream. Add the poultry seasoning, paprika and raw rice to the pan. Stir the rice mixture so that ingredients are evenly distributed.

Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture (in a single layer if you can, they will be crowded). Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil. If the casserole is still too liquidy, let it cook a few minutes more, uncovered until enough liquid has been absorbed to have the appearance of rice in a creamy sauce topped with tender chicken. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serves 4.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making the best of it...

The lights flickered but never went out at our house but lots of friends and family were left powerless from Saturday's Halloween Blizzard. My nearly 80 year old mother held out stubbornly for two nights wrapped in a sweater and a comforter flipping through magazines by candlelight. It took promises of hot cocoa, Captain America on DVD and the recliner. She's camping out here until her power is restored so we're making the best of it. And enjoying every bite!


MOM'S APPLE CRANBERRY GINGER CAKE

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Dash salt
1/4 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch round (or square) pan using baking spray with flour.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and oil. Beat in eggs, molasses, applesauce and cranberry sauce. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Blend into the creamed mixture with a wooden spoon. Once mixed well, stir in the hot water. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes before serving with honey caramel sauce and whipped cream or with a dollop of sweetened chevre.

HONEY CARAMEL SAUCE
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
1/4 cup butter

Cook in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat on the stovetop, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Continue to boil, continue stirring constantly until thick and caramel colored. Should take about 8-10 minutes in total. Serve warm. Pour into a sterile jar and store in the refrigerator up to a month. Reheat in microwave for 30 seconds on high.