Tag Archives: Broccoli

Finding Balance & A Family Recipe

Chicken Mornay_Foodie for TwoBalance.  As you may have noticed, few words have filled these pages over the last several months.  Balance.  It’s something that hasn’t been in my life of late.  Sadly, take-out food has been the norm for quick nourishment.  I haven’t had the pleasure of tinkering about in my kitchen, making creations that warm my soul and make me sigh with happiness. Balance. You see, a few months ago I took a new path – more like returned to a well-worn path – and started a new job back in the home building industry.  Before I started my new job, this meal was our Sunday dinner.  Life has changed, all for the better, and I must find a new balance on this path.  It will happen and food is usually what anchors me in a busy and fulfilling work life.  Balance.  This family recipe is a start.

Along with creating soulful food in my kitchen, family recipes offer me a great level of comfort and satisfaction, and they help me foster the continuation of a legacy, a connection through food.  This one is a childhood favorite and has celebrated many occasions.  I am not sure where it came from but what’s important to me is that it’s from our family and my life.  Chicken Mornay is made from tender chicken breasts that are browned and then oven cooked with broccoli, mushrooms and a creamy, cheesy sherry sauce that becomes a thick gravy that begs to be scooped up with every bite.  It’s a classy dish that is easy to prepare and make.  First, I gather all the ingredients, get everything prepped and start with the broccoli.

Par Boiled Broccoli Spears_Foodie for TwoThe broccoli florets are par boiled to speed up the cooking time.  A spider, typically used for fried foods, is a helpful tool to remove the broccoli when done.  Transfer the florets to an ice bath (fill a large bowl with water and a good layer of ice cubes – the cold water stops the cooking process for the broccoli and will help retain the color) and let sit for 2 minutes, remove and drain and transfer to a cooking dish.

Broccoli spears in pan_Foodie for TwoAfter transferring the par-boiled florets to the cooking dish, toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange the florets around the perimeter of the dish.

Dredging_Flour in Paper Bag_Foodie for TwoThe next step is to brown the chicken.  The chicken cutlets need to be dredged in flour and I find the easiest way to do this is to use a sandwich paper bag (available at your local grocery story or Costco). Add the flour and spices to a bag and gently shake to stir, add one cutlet at a time, shake well to coat, remove with tongs and transfer to a plate.  Repeat with remaining pieces and toss/recycle the bag when you are done.  It makes clean up super simple.

Browned Chicken_Foodie for TwoAfter the chicken is browned, add to the middle of the cooking dish.  Now it’s time to make the star of the recipe, the sauce! 

See all those crunchy bits on the bottom of the pan?  That is pure flavor, so don’t wipe it out. Crunchy Pan Bits_Foodie for Two

The sherry and water are added to the hot pan and brought to a boil, while scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the bits, also called deglazing. 
Flavor note: The original recipe calls for American cheese and I made a substitution with a good quality white American from Boarshead.  It makes a notable flavor difference.

Leftover Mushrooms in Paper Bag_Foodie for TwoHave leftover mushrooms? Here’s a clever idea for storing them:   

Keep them in a small paper sandwich bag and store them in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator.  They will keep for about a week.  For easy identification, I like to handwrite the mushroom type and date on the outside of the bag. 

Another component of the sauce is a roux, which is a great thickening agent to keep for sauces, gravies and soups.  For me, it’s the best, surefire tool (and lump-free method) that makes me look like a pro.  Here is a trick from the culinary world using just two ingredients, butter and flour: 

Roux_Progression_Foodie for Two

When the sauce is finished, it is poured over top of the chicken and broccoli and it all cooks for 20 minutes.  Serve bubbling hot and savor the flavors!

Plated Chicken Mornay1_Foodie for TwoBalance.  It’s always a moving target but at least I know with homemade food I can satisfy and nourish my soul.  As I settle into my new groove, I look forward to sharing my stories more often and reconnecting with food – and you – again.

Eat well and share the love!Logo in Word

Chicken Mornay (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Makes 2 servings
Oven: 375º | Prep Time: 20 minutes  |  Cook Time: 20 minutes

2 cups broccoli florets
1 large chicken breast, cut in thirds lengthwise
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Roux: 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons flour
½ cup cream sherry
¼ cup water
1 ¾ cup milk (used 1%) – warm for 2 minutes in microwave on full power
6 slices American cheese (used Boarshead brand), plus for topping
8 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Heat oven to 375º

Broccoli: In a medium soup pot, fill ¾ full with water and bring to a boil.  After water has come to a boil, add a pinch of salt and the broccoli florets; par-boil for 4 minutes.  Transfer to an ice bath (large bowl filled with water and a good layer of ice cubes) and let sit for 2 minutes.  Drain, transfer to an 8” x 8” cooking dish and toss with a small amount of olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange around the perimeter of the cooking dish.

Chicken: Heat a medium skillet to medium-high and add the oil.  While the pan is heating, add the flour and spices to a small paper bag and dredge each piece of chicken, dusting off any excess flour.  Transfer to a plate and continue with the remaining chicken pieces.  When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes until golden brown, turn over (add a bit more oil if needed) and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer chicken pieces to the middle of the cooking dish.

Sauce:  For the roux, add the butter to a ramekin or small glass bowl.  Microwave on 10 second increments until the butter is melted.  Add the flour and stir well, set aside.

Using the same skillet that the chicken was cooked in, turn the heat to medium and add the sherry and water to de-glaze the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes to reduce.  Add the roux and stir well until it is completed incorporated into the liquid.  Add the milk and whisk together; bring to a boil to thicken, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the cheese, mushrooms and spices, and stir well to melt the cheese.

Pour sauce over the chicken and broccoli in the cooking dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

In April I couldn’t resist capturing this playful shot of Murphy after he buried his face in the snow.  Thankfully the ground is now covered with green grass and the tree leaves are almost fully grown.Murphy in April 2013_Foodie for Two

Book Club: Gluten-free Quinoa Salad

Last night we had our monthly book club outside on Teri’s deck.  We are a group of amazing, strong, intelligent and accomplished women who discuss current issues and books, laugh a lot, readily offer each other support and have thought-provoking discussions.  We also enjoy a glass (or two) of wine and eat really good food.  My time was short so I decided to make a quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) salad and only use ingredients that were in the house, while still making it gluten-free for someone in the group.  I had slim pickings with frozen broccoli being the only vegetable available; it all came together with a quick walnut Dijon vinaigrette for Quinoa Marco Polo (keep reading for why I chose that name).  We discussed “The Last Chinese Chef”, a foodie novel by Nicole Mones (author of Lost in Translation).  Yes, it was my recommendation last month and I enjoyed the discussions about the book – it’s been a while since food was the main topic of our book selection.  This recipe was simple to pull together with minimal ingredients.  My pantry is typically stocked with quinoa because it’s a versatile whole grain that can be served as a side salad, main dish or used to stuff vegetables.

I buy Eden Foods Organic Quinoa (uncooked grains shown at right), available at my local grocery store in the rice aisle.  This whole grain has a nutty flavor, is rich in fiber, ready in less than 20 minutes and easy to cook.  According to their package, quinoa is grown in the Andes at over 11,000 feet in elevation and called the “chisaya mama”, mother of all grain.  When cooked, the grain puffs up and the outer shell has a light give – they have a great texture.  I like to mix in some of the walnut Dijon dressing with the quinoa while it is still hot so it absorbs more of the flavors.   

Why call this recipe Quinoa Marco Polo?  With broccoli as the main vegetable and having the other ingredients on hand, I thought it would be fun to pay homage to the long-ago restaurant, The Good Earth.  They made an unforgettable, delicious entrée called Chicken Marco Polo that had a cooked grain, chicken, broccoli, walnuts, onions, raisins, water chestnuts, a creamy mustard sauce and topped off with melted cheddar cheese.  There isn’t any chicken or cheese in this recipe but the walnut Dijon vinaigrette dressing gives it a great zing of flavor.  It’s perfect for the nutty, light quinoa along with the mixture of red onions, broccoli, toasted walnuts and sweet raisins. 

This is one of my favorite books; the vivid and descriptive writing transported me to the kitchen where the character created delectable, tradition-filled dishes.  I also developed a new respect for the Chinese history and culinary traditions.  Here is an excerpt from Nicole Mones’ website: “You may know Chinese food; you may even love it. But The Last Chinese Chef will take you into a world of Chinese food you never even knew existed. Here is the hidden universe of one of the world’s great cuisines. Its philosophy, its concepts, and its artistic ambitions are all illuminated in a story that’s entertaining, emotionally satisfying, and erudite…… This is a novel of food, friendship, and falling in love, one that will forever change the way you look at Chinese food.”

If you haven’t tried quinoa, you should give it taste – it’s perfect for a pot luck or picnic.  Eat well and share the love!

Quinoa Marco Polo
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies
Total Cooking Time: 20 minutes          Total Prep Time: 10 minutes

Walnut Dijon Vinaigrette
4 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon good white vinegar (white balsamic or Pinot Grigio)
1 ½ teaspoons stone ground mustard

¼ teaspoon honey or agave nectar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8  teaspoon pepper
1 cup Quinoa grains (yields about 2 cups cooked)
1 ¼ cups water
Vegetable Mixture
½ cup thinly sliced red onions, cut into thirds
6 to 7 broccoli florettes, sliced (fresh or frozen)
3 tablespoons raisins
½ cup walnuts (toasted), broken into pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Walnut Dijon Vinaigrette
Add all ingredients to a small blender and pulse a few times until well emulsified.  If you have it, use your immersion blender with the small blender attachment to make the dressing.

Bring water to boil and add stir in the quinoa.  Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Turn heat off and let sit for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.  Add 1 tablespoon of the Walnut Dijon vinaigrette and stir well to coat all the grains.

Vegetable mixture
While the quinoa is cooking, start the vegetables.  In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil.  Add the sliced onions, ¼ teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and sauté until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add the broccoli, raisins and walnuts along with a good drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir well and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add the cooked quinoa to the vegetable mixture along with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and stir well.  Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool.  Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and serve.

  • If using fresh broccoli, blanch the florettes in salted boiling water for 1 ½ minutes.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.  Cut into slices.
  • Quinoa Marco Polo can be served hot or cold.  Can be made one day ahead – cover and refrigerate; reserve remaining vinaigrette and add before serving.