Chicken, Cheddar, and Apple Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing

I hope the combination of cheddar cheese with ginger-lime dressing doesn’t deter you from making this, because I didn’t realize right away that the combination could seem unlikely and even unpleasant.  However, I loved the use of cheddar cheese in my salad, and I actually found it to be the star ingredient: by the time the salad was mostly eaten, I found myself scraping the bowl with disappointment, unable to find anymore matchstick morsels of dairy goodness.

My suggestion, if you make this salad, is to buy great quality cheddar.  Now is the moment I’ve been waiting for, when I can bring up the one place in New York that feels like a second home to me, mainly because it is a shrine to all things delicious and gourmet.  I am speaking of none other than Chelsea Market, an indoor artisanal market of sorts where I would set up a bed and live if that were socially acceptable.  Long story short, Lucy’s Whey opened up in Chelsea Market about a year ago, and I admire their mission and purpose, which is to sell artisanal and delicious cheeses that are only made in America.  After I told the saleswoman what type of salad I wanted to prepare, she helped me select a cheddar from Cellar’s at Jasper Hill in Vermont which is the perfect blend of nutty, sharp, and rich.

There are two things about this salad that I should mention.  Firstly, if I were to do it again I would probably replace the granny smith apple with a pear, just because I’ve never really liked apples in my salad and I don’t know what I was thinking.  Secondly, this recipe requires shredded chicken.  To easily shred chicken: put the chicken breast in a pot and fill it with enough water or chicken broth to just cover the chicken.  Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until chicken’s center is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit in the pot for 10 minutes.  Shred chicken using two forks or your hands.

If you decide to play around with the dressing, please let me know what you come up with!

Chicken and Apple Salad with Cheddar and Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette – serves 1
For the salad:
1 small head boston lettuce or butter lettuce
2.5 ounces/70 grams sharp cheddar cheese
1 granny smith apple
1/2-cup loosely packed bean sprouts
1 chicken breast, shredded
1/4-cup roasted peanuts
1-2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as sunflower or canola
1 tablespoon honey
1/2-teaspoon freshly minced ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime
1.  Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.  Discard any lettuce tops that are wilted.  Slice each lettuce leaf lengthwise into 1/2-inch slivers (you can stack them on top of each other and cut several at a time to make this easier).  Place in a salad bowl.
2.  Cut cheese into matchstick-sized pieces, roughly 1/4- to 1/2-inch in thickness.
3.  Wash and dry the apple.  Cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Cut one half of the apple into thin slices, then cut each slice lengthwise into matchstick-sized pieces (similar to the cheese). Save the other apple half for another use, or eat it for dessert!
4.  Add bean sprouts, chicken, and peanuts to salad.
5.  Make dressing: combine oil and honey in a small bowl and whisk together.  Slowly add in ginger and cilantro while whisking all the while.  Add lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6.  Sprinkle dressing over salad; garnish with roughly chopped cilantro.

Poulet à la Moutarde – Dijon Mustard Chicken

I would consider this to be a pretty classic French dish in that it includes Dijon mustard and tarragon, and because the highlight of this dish is very clearly the rich and flavorful sauce that enrobes the chicken.  Unlike most French dishes however, this recipe is very simple to put together and the addition of cumin adds an extra kick that goes a long way in the sauce.

What this picture above doesn’t show is that I included brown rice in my meal, so after taking this photo I dumped a bunch of brown rice right into the pan and dug in.  You can’t make up satisfaction like that!  The addition of heavy cream at the end is optional – it will slightly reduce the intensity of flavors, which may be good if you prefer milder sauces.

Bon appetit!

Poulet à la Moutarde – Dijon Mustard Chicken - Serves 1
1 large chicken breast, cut along the grain into 2 or 3 smaller pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2-cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
1.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper all over.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
3.  Once oil is hot, add chicken to skillet and cook until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken from heat and cover it with foil to keep warm.
4. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly browned, about 1 minute.
5.  Add chicken broth, tarragon, cumin, and mustard, and stir to combine.  Bring mixture to a simmer, add chicken, and cook 2-3 minutes longer, until sauce is reduced slightly.
6.  Add heavy cream if using and stir just to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with white or brown rice, Papardelle noodles, or polenta.

Spring Pasta with Zucchini Ribbons

 

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~Oscar Wilde

 

I won’t go into the details of why cooking for yourself is a great way to dive into this so-called romance as Mr. Wilde puts it, but I thought this quote might inspire you as it did me.  I also would like to apologize for not having written any recipes for exactly two months.  When it comes to this blog, consistency is clearly is not my strong suit.

I am going to keep it fairly short today, and just give you the run-down with this pasta, a healthy dish that comes together nicely and showcases the prime vegetables of the season.  While I like cooking year round, cooking in springtime is a special treat because I am finally able to cook with fresh produce that is full of fragrance, flavor and texture.  The silky zucchini complements perfectly the crunch of the asparagus and peas, and fresh basil adds the final touch to remind you that better weather really is on its way!

Of course this springtime bliss is only relevant to those living in seasonal areas in the northern hemisphere, but hopefully you will all enjoy making this pasta no matter where you call home.  As with pretty much any recipe on this blog, feel free to change it up as you see fit: replace the peas with fava beans, use fresh mint or cilantro instead of basil, and you may even want to omit the bacon, in which case you would need to use olive oil to cook the zucchini and asparagus. 

One last note: if you have leftover zucchini and asparagus, why don’t you dice or slice everything and cook it in the next few days in a frittata?

Happy spring to every one, may your next meal be absolutely delicious, wherever and whatever you find yourself eating.  And please give feedback/comments/new recipe ideas!  The more the merrier!

Spring Pasta- Serves 1
 
1 zucchini, ends cut off, peeled
1/4-cup lardons, or two slices bacon, cut into small dice
2 ounces papardelle pasta, or any other pasta you want to use (you’re making this for yourself, so go nuts!)
1/2-cup fresh or frozen peas (if using frozen, make sure to thaw them)
3 stalks asparagus, trimmed, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lemon
4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan, or more as desired
good-quality olive oil (optional)
 
1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil.
2.  Using your vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini vertically into pasta-like ribbons.

3.  In a small or medium saute pan, cook the lardons or bacon bits over medium heat, until well browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Once cooked through, remove from heat, leaving the fat in the pan.
4.  Once water is boiling, add pasta and peas and cook pasta to package instructions. 
5.  Return the saute pan to heat and cook garlic in the remaining bacon fat until browned, about 30 seconds.  Add the zucchini ribbons and saute until slightly softened, 2 minutes.  Add the asparagus and cook until asparagus pieces are just slightly tender, 2-3 minutes.
6.  Once pasta is ready, drain in a colander along with the peas.  Add pasta, peas, and bacon bits to the skillet containing the asparagus and zucchini, and toss to combine.  Add lemon juice as desired, probably 1-2 tablespoons. Season generously with freshly ground pepper.
7.  Remove from heat and toss in the basil.  Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and drizzle with good-quality olive oil if desired.
 
Booooon appetito!

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mushrooms and Parsley (And topped with truffle oil, if you please)

I started this blog a year and a half ago and I have not yet directly addressed the question of cooking for one: is it worth it, or is it just a sad way to spend an evening?  To be honest, when I started this blog I had no particular purpose in mind, and I certainly didn’t know if anyone would read what I had to write!  If I could trace back to what I was thinking in August 2009, I believe I told myself something along the lines of, “ok, I’m moving to Paris and I’ll be cooking for myself a lot, so why not write about it?”  It was as simple as that.

This blog has been a lot of fun and now that people are starting to respond my efforts feel very rewarded; I hope every one writes a blog so they can know how good it feels when people you don’t know contact you and compliment your work.  However, I can’t deny that at times I feel discouraged or unsure of myself: there are not many other sites that deal with cooking for one, for the obvious reason that it can be lonely.  There are moments when I ask myself why I am working on a blog that merely shows people how lonely I am, and that I often eat by myself. 

Ultimately I think these thoughts are just my potentially bruised ego talking, for every time I make a meal for myself, I never once feel sad or alone, quite the contrary in fact.  I have to eat, we all do, and sometimes I have to eat alone, so I may as well make it as enjoyable as possible.  I decided to write about it because I love cooking and even though I’m eating alone, I do want to share the meal with someone, and that someone is you!

The Wall Street Journal wrote a blog post last August contemplating cooking for one and whether there is value behind it (the exact title is “Dining Solo: Is Cooking For One a Waste of Time and Money?” – they clearly don’t beat around the bush).  I think that if you are just starting to cook for yourself, it takes some adjustment and getting used to using half of an ingredient or part of a product.  But I don’t know of anyone who has started cooking for themselves and later stopped.  The fact of the matter is that cooking for yourself gives you a sense not only of self-reliance and dependability, but also of self-esteem: you don’t need to go out because you can make the best things at home.  As for the issue of cost, I can’t imagine that eating out every night would be cheaper than making food at home, but I don’t know this for sure and would love to hear your opinion - if you cook for yourself, do you find that it saves you money?

I posted a comment on the WJS blog post with the example of a cauliflower head, and how you can use it several different ways during the course of a week, so you don’t have to eat the same meal three times in a row or throw away what you don’t use.  The most important thing, as I detailed in my comment, is pairing long-lasting pantry items, such as onions, garlic, nuts, spices, oils, and almond/peanut/soy butter with fresh ingredients, namely fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats.  If you want to make chicken but you can only buy chicken breasts in pairs, then use one breast to make this dish, save the other breast in the fridge for up to three days and use the it in chicken piccata or chicken with couscous and prunes.

This recipe for chicken stuffed with mushrooms was inspired by a recipe from Martha Stewart, whose cookbook my dad gave me for christmas last year (the recipes are really great dad, so thanks!).  Her recipe calls for wild mushrooms but I used only white button mushrooms (in France they are called champignons de Paris), and it came out very well – there was a deep mushroom flavor while not overtaking the chicken and parsley.  However, I did add one expensive ingredient which certainly influenced the outcome of this dish – oil heralding from one of France’s most prized possessions, yes I am talking about truffles.  I bought a small tin can of black truffle oil for 8 euros, which I have already used 5 times and can probably use a few more times yet, so I don’t find this to be a huge splurge.  Unfortunately I just looked online and saw that the same tin can is being sold in the states for 25 dollars! 

It is up to you if you want to add truffle oil to the chicken; if not, you may want to vary the mushrooms and include a few wild mushrooms (chanterelle, shiitake, or porcini) to intensify the flavor.  Or, you could opt out of either of these options and eat it the classic way, or better yet add toasted pine nuts or walnuts to the mushroom mixture and stuff the chicken breast in this manner. Lastly, since I ask you to use only 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, and since you likely will be buying more than this, I highly recommend wrapping the parsley in a damp paper towel and putting it in a Tupperware container in the fridge to maximize its lifespan.

No matter how you eat it, I hope you enjoy it – and if you do enjoy it, or even if you don’t, let me know!

Bisous

Chicken Breast stuffed with Mushrooms and Parsley (and topped with truffle oil, if you please) – serves 1

1 tablespoon olive oil (plus extra for the chicken)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
5 large white mushrooms, finely diced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 chicken breast
Black truffle oil for drizzling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C
1. Heat the tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and saute until softened, about 7-8 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, wash and pat dry the chicken. Rub all over with olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley.
3. Once mushrooms are softened, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Once the liquid has evaporated, remove from heat and stir in the remaining parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a teaspoon or so of truffle oil if using.
4. Stuff the chicken breast cavity with the mushroom mixture, and top the breast with any remainder of the mixture.
5. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil, place the breast in the center, and seal the foil around the chicken to create a sealed pocket.
6. Bake until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes.

Poulet en Papillote (Chicken in Foil)

So I decided to give this type of chicken preparation a try mainly because the recipe I posted for salmon in foil, or saumon en papillote, was very successful (it’s the most read recipe on this site).  I certainly understand why this recipe’s salmon counterpart does so well:  food cooked in foil is a cinch to prepare, since you’re not really doing any cooking at all.  Just a little bit of slicing and dicing, and folding up the aluminum to make a pretty package, and the oven does all the rest!

I found that cooking chicken this way is almost a breakthrough: I have never made chicken so tender. Each morcel was easily pierced by a fork, and the soft bite was a far cry from the rubbery chicken I know we’ve all made at least once or twice.

I wasn’t sure what to make in terms of sauce; I knew mushrooms, thyme, and mustard would be in the mix, but I wanted to ensure that it would have flavor, so I decided to add a lot of freshly ground pepper to give it an extra kick.  However, I should warn you that since dijon mustard already has a tang, the addition of pepper really ups the zest in each bite.  I loved it, in fact I soaked up all the remaining sauce with a lovely French baguette – but if you know that you don’t like foods that pack a lot of punch I would recommend foregoeing the pepper, and instead adding a variety of fresh or dried herbs, such as sage, parsley, or oregano. 

And I would also urge you to experiment with the vegetables added to the foil package: fingerling potato would certainly make a nice addition, as well as perhaps leeks, cauliflower florets, or maybe even carrots.  Feel free to play around and come up with something that suits you perfectly, this recipe is extremely flexible.

I picked up chicken breast that had already been cut into cubes, but I would recommend using a whole chicken breast, or chicken thighs in this recipe.  Made with chicken breast this recipe is not only easy but extremely healthy – there is essentially no fat in the dish! The cooking time should be about the same whether you use chicken pieces or a whole breast.  For a thigh I would add ten minutes.

Happy eating my friends, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Poulet en Papillote (Chicken in Foil) – serves 1

1 large white mushroom (or 2-3 small white mushrooms)
1 chicken breast
4 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons of a dried herb of your preference (thyme, sage, oregano)
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 white onion
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

Preheat the oven to 410°F/210°C.
1. Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel or brush, and slice thinly. Place mushrooms on a sheet of aluminum foil (the sheet should be large enough to cover the chicken breast).
2. Place the chicken breast in a bowl and cover it thoroughly with mustard, 1 teaspoon of the dried herb, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Place the chicken breast over the mushrooms.
3. Peel and thinly slice the onion, spread the slices over the chicken breast. Cover the mixture with the remaining thyme, pepper, and the olive oil (if using), and pinch all edges of the aluminum foil together to create a sealed pocket for the chicken.
4. Place foil on a baking dish and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until breast is very tender.

Chicken Piccata (Or Floured Chicken with Lemon, Parsley, and Capers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 After having written this post I realized that this recipe is very similar to one I wrote two weeks ago for whiting fish in a mustard, lemon, and parsley sauce.  I guess this means I am in a lemon-and-parsley kind of mood lately – hopefully you are too.  Truth be told, it is also thanks to a reader from California, who asked me if I knew a good chicken piccata recipe, that I decided to bust out a version I made once or twice for my dad (a lover of this recipe, especially when made with thinly pounded veal), and I am happy to be re-introduced to this easy and delicious staple. 

For this particular recipe I did what I like to do best, which is  invite over some cobailles, or guinea pigs, to test the recipe out before publishing it here. Et voilà, quelle joie de voir leurs bonnes réponses à propos de cette recette! Bref, my willing friends (thanks Erin and Sophie) confirmed what I was hoping to hear: this recipe is extremely fast to put together (less than 20 minutes, honest!) and packs a lot of fantastic flavor in just a few ingredients.  My chicken piccata sauce came out very green, but that is because of my firm belief in doubling the amount of herbs in almost any recipe - they can only add to the depth of flavor, and I follow the reasoning that if I’m already chopping then I may as well go the whole nine yards and chop a lot.  However, if you are not like me and don’t enjoy running your knife (which is hopefully very sharp and large) through a seemingly endless pile of parsley, there is another solution: stem your parsley leaves, place them in a high-rimmed glass cup, and cut them up with scissors!  You will get good results with a lot less work.  Or, you can be like me and enjoy this type of torture. C’est comme vous voulez.

A quick note on butter: butter is a high-fat pleasure that adds fragrance, flavor, and richness to any food it touches.  We all know the satisfaction of walking into a kitchen and smelling the nutty and delicious smell that butter gives off once it begins to brown in a skillet – it’s almost as amazing as waking up to the smell of bacon (I have yet to think of anything that smells better, except maybe freshly brewed coffee in the morning -I’d love to hear your ideas on this matter).  However, I have a sister who  is the star of my life (she works – get ready for a blatant plug – at the Daily Meal, a new and thorough food website, started by the ex-forbes.com CEO), and this wonderful relation of mine has had high cholesterol since about age 14, and has since then been denied the privilege of guiltlessly indulging in butter-drenched delices.   Because of dietary restrictions implemented on her at a very early age, I also grew up understanding the risks involved in consuming food with a high saturated fat content.  Why am I telling you this? To explain what I could have said in about a dozen words: if you want to substitute the butter in this recipe for olive oil, you can. 

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy fatty food without significant consequences, then I implore you to make the recipe as I did and as written, which is still light and healthy.  And if you do try it, please let me know how it comes out – I think I can say with confidence that you will surprise yourself by your cooking skills, and you will see how easy it is to prepare delicious food.   

Chicken Piccata  – serves 1

1 skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut in half or pounded thinly
all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Place some flour in a shallow bowl, and dredge the chicken to coat with flour.
2. Heat half the butter in a small or medium skillet over medium heat (big enough to hold the chicken). Once hot, add the breast and cook until done, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate.
3. Heat olive oil in the same skillet. Add the lemon juice, capers, and chicken stock, and stir to combine. Add chicken back to the skillet, and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Stir in parsley and remaining half of butter. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

>Steak au Poivre

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Simply delicious.  That’s all I really need to say.  Firstly, who doesn’t like well-cooked steak that has been heavily seasoned with black pepper, thus creating a smoky, earthy, and almost spicy sensation?  Secondly, when said steak is topped with a shallot-and-cream sauce, who doesn’t jump for joy? 
I don’t know about you, but this is one of those meals that holds a special place for me; maybe it’s the good memories I have from eating it at steakhouses, but I think it’s more likely the deep satisfaction I get from eating a good-quality strip steak doused in a sumptuous sauce.  Yum.
So, without further ado, here is the recipe for a damn good (and easy) steak au poivre.
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Steak au Poivre – serves 1
Although I think good-quality food is always a must, it is especially important with steak.  The better the quality of the filet (meaning tender, very lean, and a uniform bright red in color), the tastier this dish will be, hands down.
1 8 oz top-loin strip steak (if you’re not sure what kind of steak this is, tell your butcher you’re making steak au poivre, and he/she should know what to give you)
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1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 shallot
1 tablespoon butter
1/4-cup cognac or brandy
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1.  Wash and pat dry the steak and rub with salt. Coarsely crush the peppercorns with the bottom of a skillet, and rub half of the peppercorns onto the steak.
2.  Heat a small skillet over high heat, and pour in the remaining peppercorns.  Once the skillet is hot (about 3-4 minutes), place the steak on it and cook through, about 8 minutes for medium rare (this depends however on the thickness of your steak – like I always say, if you’re not sure about the doneness, cut the middle open with a sharp knife and check).
3.  Remove the steak from heat and put it on a plate – you can either slice the steak up into slices (like I did in the photo) or keep it as is.  Cover with foil to keep warm.
4.  Pour off fat from skillet and add half of butter and the shallot, and cook over medium heat until shallots are golden, about 4-5 minutes.
5.  Add cognac (be careful – it might flame up for a bit), and cook until reduced slightly, 3 minutes.
6.  Add heavy cream and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
7.  Add remaining butter and cook 2 minutes.  Pour sauce over steak and enjoy!! 
Merci, a demain!

>Poached Egg and Prosciutto Open-Faced Sandwich

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To put it out there as simply as possible, sandwiches in France are amazing.

I’ve developed a new appreciation for sandwiches in this beautiful city, where for 2 euros and 50 centimes you can buy a sandwich that will make your mouth water and your taste buds go wild. Every corner you turn you see fresh baguettes featuring anything from tuna and curried chicken to the French staple – ham, fromage, and a good slab of butter. Simply divine.

I get spoiled here, and I buy bread that is almost other-worldly, but in reality if you buy a fresh baguette from your local supermarket you’ll likely be eating something pretty tasty.

To make a sandwich like the one in the picture, slice open a piece of bread and rub olive on each side with a paper towel. Next place some basil leaves, lettuce leaves, a slice of prosciutto, and some grated emmental on each bread slice.

Boil water and 1 tablespoon vinegar in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. For each egg (if you want two), crack them into a teacup or another small dish. Gently slide them into the simmering water, and move them slowly back and forth with a wooden spoon to make sure the whites envelope the yolk. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then with a slotted spoon lift them out of the water, and place them on each bread slice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and enjoy. I devoured mine, I’m glad no one was here to witness it.

Of course you can change this however you like – use ham or bacon instead of prosciutto, and parmesan, gruyere, or cheddar instead of emmental. Same with the herbs and the oil, feel free to change up the basil to rosemary, thyme, or parsley, and use mayo or butter instead of olive oil.

Merci, et je vous souhaite une trés bonne soirée!