Saturday, May 28, 2016

Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce



























Vodka sauce is quite the trendy sauce these days--perhaps because vodka itself has become so trendy of late.  But you may ask yourself, "the best vodkas are basically colorless, odorless and tasteless...how could they be contributing any flavor to a tomato based sauce?

Well, the key is basic chemistry.  Now, I'm no chemist, but here's what I've gathered in doing a little research.  Tomatoes, those wonderful little red balls of deliciousness, have what you might call some untasteable flavors that are hidden away within.  Just cooking the tomatoes isn't enough to bring out these flavors--they require a catalyst--in this case alcohol, because those flavor compounds are alcohol-soluble, meaning they show up for duty when we add a little booze to the sauce.

Now, folks have been doing this for centuries by adding wine to their tomato dishes, and that works great--but wine also adds flavor compounds of its own, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, if that's the flavor your going for, but if you want, dear friends, the most prefect, unadulterated tomato flavor experience you've ever had, make some vodka sauce.  Your taste buds will be slap-happy with tomato goodness.



Ingredients

1 cup vodka
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
3 oz prosciutto
1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons fresh basil
28 ounce crushed tomatoes
28 oz tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
salt
pepper
8 oz Penne Pasta



Heat the olive oil in a skillet.

Dice your onion...



And julienne your prosciutto...



and sauté them both in the oil until the onions are starting to clear and turn golden.



mince basil and add it to the skillet



mince garlic and add that to the skillet as well



add crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce



add the vodka



let simmer covered for 20 minutes.  The bulk of the alcohol with boil away, but in the process it will bring out those alcohol-soluble tomato flavors.

add heavy cream







And cook a few more minutes to heat through.



cook the pasta according to package directions while the sauce is cooking.  Serve the sauce over the pasta with some Parmesan and a little more basil if you like.



Until next time,


Chris



Monday, May 9, 2016

Greek Lemon Chicken w/Dill Sauce























Ah, Greece!  I've been fortunate enough to travel there a few times over the years, but nothing matches my first visit, way back in 1994.  I was a young pup then, barely out of college, and our Greece stop came at the tail end of a world wind tour of Europe that started in England and wound its way down through France, Switzerland, Italy and then finally the land of Apollo and Athena--Greece.




The Eat'n Man, with friend, at the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, June 1994  

We spent a week on the Greek Island of Poros, a sort of backwater of the Aegean Sea, but relaxing enough after our travels.   There was a little grill located at our so called 'resort,' but we never found it that satisfying.  Luckily there was a single, sleepy little town on the island where we could dine on some better fare.

My memory is hazy from then (the Ouzo flowed freely) but if I recall correctly, it was there that I had a delicious lemon chicken dish with dill sauce.  I've tried to recreated it here.  It may not be exact, but it's pretty close.

Ingredients

Lemon Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon Cavender's Greek seasoning
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper


Dill Sauce

1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Directions

Cube your chicken breasts into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes.



Place them in a large freezer bag.



Mix 3 tablespoons lemon juice with the red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Crush two cloves of garlic and add these to the mix.
Stir in the oregano and Cavender's Greek seasoning, salt and pepper.
Add this mixture to the chicken, toss to coat and marinate in the fridge for for three hours.

Fire up your charcoal grill with a medium fire and arrange the marinated chicken onto skewers.



Grill Chicken over medium fire until cooked.



Garnish with a little chopped fresh parsley if you like. Serve with dill sauce.


Dill Sauce:



For the sauce, chop your fresh dill, leaving out the thicker stems.



Add the fresh chopped dill to the yogurt, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 minced garlic clove.






Mix thoroughly.



Let sauce rest in fridge one hour before serving.


So that's it, a delicious yet simple dish that hearkens back to that Hellenic Hot Spot, Greece.

Until next time,

Opa!

Chris