Tag Archives: Family Recipe

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

Ingredients:
2 cups broccoli florets
Chicken:
1 large chicken breast, cut in thirds lengthwise
Dredging:
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
Sauce:
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

Directions:
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

Dad’s Wontons Become Lettuce Wraps

My parents often cooked when we were kids, and they sometimes made recipes that exposed us to different cuisines.  Some we never cared to repeat and some became family favorites, with each sibling putting their own mark or twist on it.  Dad’s fried wontons served with a garlicky, ginger soy dipping sauce were a favorite because they tasted like real grown up food, highlighting vibrant flavors and crunchy textures.  He picked up the recipe while enrolled in culinary school in Texas and it was often a menu item for their backyard parties.  Ground beef, carrots, raisins and onions make up the filling and with Dad’s version it gets rolled into an eggroll wrapper (we still called them a wonton) and fried to a crispy golden brown.  With the soy dipping sauce drizzled on every bite, it was the ultimate savory and sweet combination. My deconstructed version has a crisp crunch from the butter lettuce, with all the flavor memories intact. Ground chicken or turkey can easily be substituted for the meat, just be sure to add extra seasoning.

A soy dipping sauce pulls all the flavors together and enhances the taste of this meal.  The salty tang of soy sauce is combined with spicy ginger root, rich garlic, oniony scallions and bright cilantro for a superbly delicious sauce! A spoonful for every bite is certainly warranted.

Here’s where the crispy wonton part comes into play. Instead of frying the whole meal as an eggroll, I thinly cut a few wonton (or eggroll, whichever you can find) wrappers into thin strips and fried them up in a small amount of oil. They provide the perfect crunch on top and remind me of the wonton taste. For those of you who aren’t familiar with butter lettuce, also known as Bibb or Boston lettuce, it has a slightly sweet, buttery flavor with thick leaves – perfect for lettuce wraps. I like to buy mine live (living greens) with the root ball attached and packed in a large clam shell, pictured below. It lasts for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator if the root ball is kept moist.

If you are yearning for something fried as I often do, here’s how to enjoy Dad’s original wontons: Simply heat your oil (about 2 ½ to 3 inches deep in a medium sauce pan with tall sides) to 350º and assemble the wontons: Add about 1/3 cup filling to the bottom half of an eggroll wrapper (a generous tablespoon for wonton wrapper), roll up like a burrito (for wonton: arrange wrapper with corner at top, place filling in the middle and fold in half) and seal the last edges well with a fingertip dipped in water, repeat process. Fry in small batches until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let drain and cool slightly on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot with the soy dipping sauce.

Eat well and share the love!

Dad’s Wonton Lettuce Wraps (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, makes 5 to 6 wraps

Ingredients:
Soy Dipping Sauce
½ cup soy sauce (low-sodium if available)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, skin removed
1 tablespoon sliced scallions
1 clove garlic, mashed whole
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
Fried Wonton Strips
Vegetable oil
5 to 6 wonton wrappers or 2 to 3 eggrolls wrappers, sliced into thin strips
Filling
¼ medium yellow onion, diced (about ½ cup)
1 large carrot peeled and grated (about ¾ cup)
½ cup golden raisins
½ pound lean ground meat (or chicken, turkey)
2 to 3 tablespoons of dipping sauce
1 tablespoon cilantro, rough chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely minced/grated
¼ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/8 teaspoon lime zest
Olive oil or vegetable oil
Salt
Pepper
Family Style Platter – Serve
4 to 5 whole leaves of butter lettuce
Wonton filling (keep hot until ready to serve)
Small bowl of Soy Dipping Sauce with spoon
Fresh cilantro leaves, from 4 to 5 sprigs of cilantro
Fried wonton strips

Directions:
Soy Dipping Sauce:  To a small bowl or glass measuring cup, add the soy sauce, ginger, scallions, garlic, cilantro and rice wine vinegar – mix well with a fork. Let the dipping sauce sit for at least an hour before serving to allow the flavors to develop. Can be made one day ahead, cover & refrigerate. (Sauce will keep in refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.)

Fry the wonton strips Add oil to a small sauce pan with tall sides, enough so oil is about 1 inch deep and heat to 350º over medium-high heat (do not leave pan unattended).  Cut the wontons into very thin strips and gently run your fingers through them to loosen.  Fry in small batches until lightly golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Let drain and cool on a plate lined with paper towels; season with salt and pepper while still hot.

Filling: In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon oil and the onions.  Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the grated carrots along with a few drizzles of oil and continue sauteéing for another 3-4 minutes, until carrots are almost tender.  Mix in raisins and transfer to a medium bowl.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add a few drizzles of oil and the ground meat, break up with the back of a spoon.  Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, mix together and continue to crumble meat as it cooks. When meat is done (no longer pink in the center), add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the grated ginger, cilantro and lime zest, stir well and mix in the onion carrot mixture, stir together until well combined and keep hot.

Family Style Platter – Assemble the Lettuce Wraps:
Using a large plate or medium platter, arrange the wonton lettuce wrap ingredients for serving.  To assemble a lettuce wrap, add some filling to the middle of the lettuce leaf, drizzle some soy dipping sauce, add a few cilantro leaves and top with wonton strips.  Finish with a bit more of the soy dipping sauce.  Fold the lettuce leaves down and over each other, and eat with your hands.

A recent summer sunset from our front deck!

Family Recipes: Ana’s Baja-style Tortilla Soup

Last month we headed to San Diego for a long weekend.  It was so nice to get away; we walked everywhere, ate some incredible food, toured the impressive Midway Aircraft Carrier Ship and hung out at Balboa Park.  It was also a time to reconnect with family; my Dad lives a few hours away so we included a road trip to see him and his wife, Ana.  You know how I love it when someone else cooks for me – well, Ana outdid herself.  We feasted on Mexican food (tortilla soup, stuffed Poblano peppers and flan), sipped margaritas and enjoyed some good wine.  Everyone always told me how delicious Ana’s tortilla soup was but we had yet to taste it.  Well, I have to admit – it blows my recipe away.  It was probably all the love and authenticity she put into it because I was in food heaven (maybe some of it was the gooey cheese at the bottom).  The soup tasted rich and comforting, with chunks of avocado, semi-melted Oaxaca cheese (pronounced woe-hawka and similar to mozzarella) and fried tortilla strips at the bottom of the bowl.  With every bite of soup, you could scoop up a bit of each and really experience the “layers of flavors” that I’m always talking about. 

Not just good for your soul, this comfort food is also good for hangovers according to Dr. Ana.  One of her secret ingredients is chipotle en adobo, an even hotter version of a jalapeño.  Chipotle is a smoked ripe jalapeño and the en adobo is roughly a tomato vinegar sauce; the end result is a smoky, HOT, and earthy tasting chile in a tangy tomato sauce.  The tortilla soup is simple to make; she sautés onions, fresh tomatoes and garlic until they are soft and then everything (including some chipotle en adobo and a bouillon cube) goes in the blender for a quick puree.  Some chicken stock (Ana prefers stock over broth because it has a hearty, authentic taste) and the puree are added back to the pan, brought to a boil and it’s ready to serve.  I love the goodies waiting for your spoon at the bottom.

Thanks to my Dad and Ana for sharing their table with me and David – it was nice to reconnect through food.  From their table to yours, here is a family recipe for a delicious soup that is definitely comfort food.  The last few posts have shared some of my Mexican favorites and it’s time to switch gears.  Next week: Napa-inspired food.

Eat well and share the love!

Ana’s Baja-style Tortilla Soup
Recipe: Ana Hernandez-Hogate, September 2009
Serves: 4 foodies plus leftovers

Ingredients:
Corn tortilla strips
1 cup Canola oil
6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips (about 1/8 inch wide)
Soup
3 medium tomatoes chopped into 1” cubes
1 medium Yellow onion chopped into 1” cubes
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon chopped chipotle en adobo (Herdez brand) – use more for  hotter taste
5 cups chicken stock
1 low salt chicken bullion cube
¼ cup chopped Cilantro
Garnish
8 ounces Oaxcaca cheese, cut into 1 inch thick strips
1 avocado cut into slices
Cilantro leaves
Sour cream
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Corn tortilla strips
In a pan, place canola oil (save 2 tablespoons for soup) and cook tortilla strips until light brown.  Place on plate lined with paper towels to drain oil.

Soup
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of canola oil.  Add tomatoes, garlic, onions, and a good pinch of salt and pepper; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer vegetables to a blender and add the chipotle chile, bouillon cube and a half cup of chicken stock.  Puree and add back into the sauce pan along with the remaining chicken stock.

Bring mixture to a boil then add the chopped cilantro.  Reduce heat to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes to release flavors.  Set aside and cool slightly.

To assemble, add a few tortilla strips in the bottom of the bowl along with 2 to 3 strips of cheese, 2 slices of avocado and a few cilantro leaves.  Ladle soup into bowl and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro.

  • This soup is also good for hangovers.
  • I prefer chicken stock versus broth because it has hearty, authentic taste