Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Taking on New Recipes

If you're like me, you have your own database of go-to meals forever in your brain. You've made them time and time again, memorized the ingredients, you know they'll taste good and in a pinch you have dinner prepared.

There are those evenings though when the old faithful recipes just don't do it for me. I want something new - a challenge that I'm never quite sure that I'll be able to tackle successfully. The recipe may say that it will take an hour to prepare and cook and I don't even care if it takes me two or more, I will make something new and fabulous (or at least attempt it).

Another reason I oftentimes try out a new recipe is when I'm cooking a special meal or having company over. Risky - totally. I don't know why I do it to myself. I always think, "maybe I should make something that I know is good..." and then that's exactly when Carlos challenges me to try something new and I totally can't help myself but accept the call to action and break out the cookbooks, leaving any doubts of incompetency behind me.

Recently Carlos and I had our first dinner guests over, and I was determined to make something fancier than I had made in the past. I went through my cookbooks (usually Rachel Ray), searching for the perfect thing and I stumbled across a recipe that I had been interested in several times, but always thought it might be too difficult. Turns out, the most difficult time I had was finding the ingredients! Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to find puff pastry (in the right size), fig preserves and Italian fontina cheese?? Thank goodness I started shopping early in the day and not RIGHT before dinnertime because I had to go to four stores just to find everything. Three out of the four stores had fontina cheese, but it was from Denmark. Two out of the four stores only had puff pastry shells and out of the remaining two, only one had the puff pastry sheet size that I needed. Only ONE store had fig preserves. Can we get a Whole Foods in Salinas please?

Anyway, with all of that said, ingredients collected, the recipe wasn't difficult at all - pretty straightforward and the result was delicious. I served it alongside green beans and asparagus with a tarragon lemon dip (also Rachel Ray) yummmm and finished off the evening with pears with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. It's a pretty expensive meal, but compared to a dinner out, not bad. For four adults it was $60 for a gourmet meal in.

I challenge you to try them all! Here are the recipes:

Love Birds - Chicken in Pastry


4 pieces skinless chicken breast, boned (about 8 ounces each)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 sprigs fresh finely chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 sheet puff pastry (11 by 17-inch), (recommended: Dufour)

8 slices Italian fontina cheese, slices should be 2 to 3-inches square and 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick, cut in 1/2

1/2 cup fig preserves

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and rosemary. Cut each piece of chicken in half across the breast giving you 8 equal portions. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the chicken on both sides, 5 minutes total. Remove from heat.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 8 pieces. Place a piece of cheese on each pastry square and top with spoonfuls of fig preserves and the chicken pieces. Pinch and seal the dough up and over the meat and cheese, seal with egg wash, flip the pastry packets over and brush the tops with remaining egg wash. Bake 12 to15 minutes, until golden.

For entree portions, simply leave chicken breast whole and cut the pastry into quarters. Trim off excess dough and use it to decorate the pastry with small cut outs such as heart shapes.

Asparagus and Green Beans with Tarragon Lemon Dip


1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed


1 cup mayonnaise

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 small shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, (4 sprigs), chopped, plus sprigs for garnish

2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

Few grinds freshly ground black pepper


Cook asparagus spears and green beans in 1-inch of salted boiling water, covered, for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain and cool the vegetables and arrange them on a serving plate. Combine the dip ingredients in a small bowl and garnish with sprigs of parsley and tarragon and set dip along side vegetables on serving dish.

Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce


2 cans pears in heavy syrup, 15 ounces

4 tablespoons amaretto or dark rum

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or, chop up a bar

1 pint French vanilla ice cream


Drain pears over a small saucepot. Reduce syrup over medium high heat 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in liquor and cook 2 minutes longer. Add chocolate and stir to melt. Remove from heat.

Slice pears and place in cocktail glasses. Pour hot chocolate sauce over pears and top glasses with small scoops of vanilla ice cream.


1 comment:

  1. Oh Sarah you are so daring! I love Rachel Ray but I don't think I would have been brave enough to attempt this one! Well done!


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