Archive for Chicken

Easy recipe: Stuffed bell peppers

Know what’s better than eating delicious food served on a beautiful dish? Eating delicious food and the equally delicious dish it’s served in. If you’ve ever had soup in a bread bowl, you’ve already enjoyed this experience. But summer is around the corner, and soup is going out of favor. Thus we turn our attention to something in season, a versatile something that’s not only great on its own, but one that can act as a delicious bowl: the bell pepper.

Bell peppers are available year-round, but they can be pricey in the milder months. Now that summer is nearly here, so are the deals on bell peppers, including the usually more expensive orange and red varieties. I recently scored half a dozen for just a few bucks at Sprouts Farmers Market. Though peppers are great cut up and grilled or roasted, “Why not use them whole and stuff them?” I thought.

When I was young, my mom made stuffed bell peppers regularly because they come together quickly, can be bolstered with a variety of leftovers such as rice and vegetables, and even freeze well for future lunches and dinners. They also stretch your dollar. If you can find peppers cheap, the only other main ingredient required is ground meat. Beef was the staple when I was young, but I now prefer leaner turkey or chicken. Seafood lovers can go a more exotic route with crab or shrimp, and vegetarians can get stuffed by using whole beans or tofu as foundation for the filling.

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Give those bones new life with stock

The feast is over, and you are as stuffed as that turkey that’s now stuffed inside you. Now it’s off to a comatose state in front of the TV or, if you are one of those insane ones, off to bed so you can be up in a few hours for the Black Friday pandemonium. Oh, and then there’s that carcass, the culinary wreckage of a feast that only comes once a year.

Most people will just toss those bones and any scraps of meat left on them in the trash without a second thought. But did you know that you can actually resurrect them, giving new life to what is otherwise considered waste? Bones, believe it or not, are a crucial component to classical cooking. After they’ve been picked to, well you know, bones can be simmered in water to make stock. Stock, of course, is the base liquid for myriad other dishes in the culinary world, most often soups and sauces.

In fact, according to The Culinary Institute of America’s “The Professional Chef,” stocks “are referred to in French as fonds de cuisine, or the foundations of cooking.”

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Brining brings out the best in a bird

Confession: Much of my high school senior year was spent at the beach. During class hours. Yes, while I should have been absorbing formal education, I and a group of friends were instead absorbing sun, sand and most of all the ocean. We never skipped the whole day – just some selected classes we decided we’d rather not attend, or perhaps we were just dealing with teen angst the best way we knew how.

Our thinking was that nature’s saline solution that we knew as the Pacific could cure all life’s ills. And magically, somehow that saltwater did indeed make us feel better every time we took a dip.

Turns out, at least from a culinary standpoint, we were on to something. Saltwater really is magical stuff. While each component alone has too many uses to mention in the kitchen – water is used for everything from steaming to making stocks, and salt for everything from preserving to insulating – when used in tandem, they work a magic all their own.

Water mixed with salt is known as a brine, and it’s a classic way of making food flavorful even before the cooking process begins. Brining becomes especially popular this time of year because of Thanksgiving, when the process is used for turkeys.

If you’ve ever had a turkey that’s been brined, you probably already know the results: a bird that is moist and exceptionally flavorful, traits that brines help create. All done ever so simply by submerging food for hours in water and salt (you can experiment with other seasonings, too, from brown sugar to peppercorns).

Yet I sense your hesitation. “What if I get this whole brining thing wrong on the big day? Domino’s may not be able to rescue me if somehow I end up with a waterlogged turkey.”

No worries. Here’s what we’re going to do: practice. And not on a turkey, but something smaller and more manageable: a chicken.

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The most important tool in the kitchen

(Updated with latest USDA info on pork)

Ask any chef to pick their favorite tool in the kitchen and there’s a good chance he or she will lovingly look toward their biggest knife. But that favorite kitchen tool and the most important one are probably quite different.

That’s because the most important tool in the kitchen, at least when it comes to your health and safety, is one that many folks don’t even have: a cooking thermometer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tens of millions of Americans become ill due to foodborne pathogens every year. And we’re not just talking about an upset stomach here; thousands of people die each year from them, the CDC says.

If you routinely make food for an elderly person, a child or a person with a weakened immune system, it’s even more vital to be sure your foods are as safe as possible for consumption.

Two of the biggest factors contributing to foodborne illnesses are cross-contamination and not cooking meats, poultry and fish to a safe temperature.

The first can be controlled by thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing work surfaces and tools that have touched raw meat, poultry and fish. The second is where the thermometer comes in.

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Pan-roasted chicken and other tasty stuff

Hey y’all,  sorry I’ve been away from the blog for a while — it’s certainly not for lack of cooking.

The past couple of weeks have been a blur, as I’ve been writing recipes for my Food 101 column for The Orange County Register and working on the Register’s latest video shoot for our O.C. Chefs at Home cooking series.

(As some of you know, my “real job” is Automotive Editor for the Register.)

I’ll have another recipe posting here next week, but in the meantime I invite you to try my latest from the Food 101 series: Pan-roasted chicken.

The recipe involves a little more technique, but the results are so worth it. The recipe can be made in about half an hour, uses only one pan, and in addition to some of the most amazing chicken you’ve had, you’ll also learn how to make a wine-butter reduction sauce. Need I say more?

Happy eating,

-Matt

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Spice up your life with paprika!

If you’ve been wanting to add some pizazz to your kitchen playlist, then boy have I got a spice for you: paprika.

We know paprika as that red powder sold in little jars or tin cans and often associate it with Hungary, but beyond that, what is the stuff?

Paprika is just the powdered form of a variety of dried peppers or chilies, and ranges in flavor from sweet to spicy, depending on the nature of the pepper or chile from which it was derived.

And what does the country of Hungary have to do with it? Well, when Europeans brought peppers back to their homeland from America in the 1500s, it was the Hungarians who sun-dried and grinded them, thus making what we now know as paprika. While paprika is made all over, the best stuff is still thought to come from Hungary.

Paprika can be spicy, but it won’t burn your mouth off like cayenne powder. Rather, paprika offers a complex flavor and can act to literally warm your body (good to know for those cold winter months).

Great, so now that you have a short history lesson on paprika, how can you use the stuff aside from sprinkling it atop hummus or deviled eggs?

Well, one of my favorite ways is to use it with a heavy hand to build a vibrant tomato sauce that itself will help flavor chicken, pork, beef or even vegetables.

In this recipe, we’ll have paprika play a starring role in a hearty and healthful chicken entree whose sauce might just outshine the poultry itself.

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Bold & Brawny Barbecue Sauce

Ah, barbecue. Was there ever a word in the culinary realm that had so many meanings, not to mention cause for so passionate of debates?

While most of us throw the word around as a verb, adjective and noun – as a cooking method, type of food eaten and the apparatus with which to cook said food, respectively – to others it’s cause for fiery remarks as to what is “real” barbecue when it comes style of both recipe and cooking method.

I’m not going to step into that hornet’s nest today. Instead I’m here to share a sauce. A barbecue sauce. A sauce that, no matter what position you take on all things barbecue, I think you’ll enjoy.

Of course, even the sauce used in food that is said to have been “barbecued” – the term so often used for grilling or charbroiling – is a candidate for debate. Many of us are familiar with a tomato-based sauce that is sweet, sour and spicy. Other parts of the U.S. of A enjoy theirs with a foundation of mustard, vinegar and even mayonnaise.

In my book, they’re all tasty. What follows here, though, is a tomato-based version (ketchup, actually, which is of course based on tomatoes). It’s so easy to make that gathering ingredients might just take longer than actually cooking it.

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