Tag Archives: Chicken

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

Memorial Day BBQ: Buttermilk & Sage Brined Chicken

This Memorial Day weekend many grills will be fired up and friends will gather.  I love simple recipes for the grill that make you look like a grilling star.  In the past I shied away from grilling chicken because it was a challenge to keep the white meat from drying out.  The heavens shone down when I discovered the brining method.  The brine mixture makes the meat tender, juicy and flavorful, and makes the chicken almost foolproof on the grill.  I like using chicken with the bone in (because it has more flavor) and with the skin on to help keep the meat moist.  I know it’s not good for you to eat the skin but I can’t resist it when it becomes a crispy, sweet piece of goodness from basting with the barbecue sauce – just like candy!

There are many variations of how to make a brine mixture – after several trial and errors, I have created my own version of buttermilk and sage brine.  Most brines use lots of salt to tenderize the meat but I chose the buttermilk because it does the same thing without as much sodium.  All you’ll need is a large glass bowl, some buttermilk, fresh sage sprigs, garlic cloves, salt and some pepper.  The chicken gets marinated overnight in the brine mixture, which imparts a wonderful depth of flavor to the meat.  If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand not to worry – you can make it yourself: for every one cup of milk (use 1% fat or higher) add 1 tablespoon of vinegar, stir and let sit for five minutes and you have buttermilk.  For the vinegar, I prefer apple cider vinegar but you can use any white vinegar you have on hand.

Believe it or not, I don’t make my own barbecue sauce!  I found a store-bought brand that we love and have just stuck with it.   Maybe I’ll be inspired to make my own for ribs in July….At any rate, if you have a favorite homemade recipe then use that, or your favorite store-bought brand.  One tip for grilling: be sure to remember to oil your grill before you put the chicken on!  I forgot to do that for this photo shoot and had chicken pieces stuck to the grill; thankfully I was able to recover from that one.  The barbecue sauce goes on after you turn the chicken the first time; the chicken is hot and absorbs the flavors.  Each time I turn the chicken, it gets basted.  When the chicken is done it has a delicious, caramelized sweet coating on it.

What to serve with your barbecued chicken?  We have so many to choose from: potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, grilled vegetables or grilled corn on the cob (see my earlier post for a great recipe to grill in the husks).   And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite – dessert!  Need an idea?  Check out my post from last week for Strawberry Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream – it’s easy to make but decadent and rich. 

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend and if you can, please take a moment to remember those who lost their lives while serving and protecting our country.

Eat well and share the love!

Buttermilk & Sage Brined BBQ Chicken
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two   
Serves two foodies
Prep Time: 1 day (brining)       Cooking Time: 20 to 25 minutes

Buttermilk & Sage Brine:
3 ½ cups buttermilk
3 sprigs of fresh sage
3 large garlic cloves, skins removed and cloves smashed
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse-grind freshly cracked pepper
Bone-in chicken with the skin on: 3 legs, 3 thighs, one breast cut in half
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce

Buttermilk & Sage Brine:
Add the buttermilk, sage (lightly bang the leaves with the back of a knife to release the oils), smashed garlic cloves, salt and pepper to a glass bowl and stir well to dissolve the salt.  Add the chicken pieces, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Grill the chicken:
Heat grill to low heat and season with oil or cooking spray when hot.  Remove the chicken from the brine mixture and transfer to a large platter or 13x 9 glass dish.  Season the chicken with pepper and place on hot grill, skin side down.  After chicken is turned over, liberally brush grilled side with barbecue sauce and continue process each time chicken is turned.  Grill for about 20 to 25 minutes, turning often, until no longer pink in the center and juices run clear then meat is pierced.  Transfer to a clean serving platter.

Serve hot with grilled corn in the husk and a potato salad or coleslaw on the side.

  • No buttermilk on hand?  Use 3 1/2 cups regular milk (1% fat or higher) and add 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (or any white vinegar), stir together and let sit for five minutes.

Birthday Epiphany & Chicken Piccata

As you all know, food plays a dominant role in my life memories.  This one is especially important to me because it helped shape my future and become the foodie that I am today.  One year I got a crazy idea and decided to fly out for my sister’s birthday to help her celebrate in person.  Never having tried this for someone else (except David), I thought: I’ll cook Cheryl a meal!  I had just figured out Chicken Piccata at home and deemed it a perfect meal to pull off in someone else’s kitchen.  It was in her kitchen where I realized what a true joy it was for me to cook and share the love with others; a life-changing epiphany that significantly influenced my career path.  I can remember standing in front of the stove while sautéing the chicken, listening to the comforting chatter of family around me and being overcome with a strong joy and happiness in my heart.  I had discovered my passion!  And I was making a meal to show how much I cared about someone, an ultimate expression for me.  It goes straight to my food soul.  While I can’t be there this year to cook Cheryl a meal, this post is in honor of her birthday today.  I am happy to share it with you: Chicken Piccata with Roasted Smashed Potatoes.

For those not familiar with Chicken Piccata, it’s made with tender, thin cutlets of chicken sautéed golden brown and served with a pan sauce made with wine, lemon, capers and butter.  The flavors are rich, silky and bright.  An Italian classic, piccata is traditionally made with veal cutlets; using chicken cutlets appears to be an American adaptation.  The term piccata translates to pounded thin and the traditional cooking method is to dredge the meat in seasoned flour, sauté it in olive oil and make a light sauce from the pan drippings.  I’m a sauce girl so I add chicken broth for more liquid.  And to make it easy to dredge the chicken, I use a small paper bag.   For the two of us, I use one large chicken breast (about .60 lb), cut into four cutlets and pounded thin. 

Capers have a pleasant tartness to them and are fun to cook with.  They are flower buds, usually from the caper plant, and either pickled or salted to use as a garnish or seasoning.  There are four classifications based on size, ranging from 7mm to 14+mm.  The most popular are the smallest buds called non-pareil.  Interestingly, the organic capers that I picked up from the store (pictured here) are from the juniper bush, as listed on the manufacturer’s website.  Using either kind, these little guys are also incredible when fried.  They become crispy, salty morsels that are perfect for garnishing salads and fish.

I saw a recipe for roasted smashed potatoes a few years ago that called for small round potatoes.  They looked scrumptious and just my style but I didn’t have the potatoes, so I filed it away mentally.  While grocery shopping recently I came across small red potatoes labeled as a one-bite variety (about an inch round) and thought they would be a fun side dish for this meal since Cheryl loves roasted potatoes.  Plus, it gave me an excuse to try something new.  Remember how I love anything fried, especially potatoes?  Well, these fit right in; the outside is crispy and crunchy with a slightly sweet, tender middle.  I roasted them in a 375 degree oven (with olive oil, salt & pepper) until tender and smashed them with a sturdy coffee cup (first tried a wide, large spatula and they popped out of the pan), and put them back in a 425 degree oven until they were golden and crispy.  Fabulous!  Garnish with fresh parsley, pepper and sea salt (parmesan would be wonderful as well). They are also the perfect side to serve with breakfast.

Often, our passions are fed when we are happily and completely engaged in doing something we love.  I am glad I was listening to my heart that evening at Cheryl’s because it’s why I’m here today, obsessing about food and sharing my stories with you. In honor of that, Happy Birthday to Cheryl!   Thanks for being my big sister, helping me dream and always encouraging me.

Eat well and share the love…..and follow your dreams.

Chicken Piccata
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two    (April 2011)

Serves two foodies

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut in four pieces lengthwise and pounded thin)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, dry mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lemon slices, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons capers
¼ cup white wine
½ cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oven to 250 degrees and place an oven-proof serving platter on rack (to keep chicken cutlets warm while making sauce).  In a small paper bag add the flour and spices, mix together.

In a medium skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ tablespoon butter and heat over medium-high heat.  Dredge chicken cutlets individually in flour mixture in paper bag.  Shake off the excess flour and add to the hot pan; sauté the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown and turn over.  Add a drizzle of olive oil around the edge and middle of pan along with ½ tablespoon butter; sauté another 3 minutes until golden brown.  Turn heat off and transfer cutlets to a plate in the warm oven while making the sauce.

Return skillet to medium heat and add the wine and chicken stock to deglaze the pan; cook for 3 to 4 minutes until reduced.  Add capers, 1 tablespoon butter, lemon slices, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Let cook for 2 minutes or until butter is melted, stir through.  Remove serving platter and chicken from oven and pour sauce over chicken cutlets.  Serve immediately.