Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chicken Normandy

When most of us think of Normandy, it’s the D-Day invasions that come to mind, but there’s more to Normandy than that.  It’s a region with a rich history all its own, and a rich culinary tradition to go along with it.  Normandy is famous for many culinary delights, including various cheeses, seafood and lamb.  But today we will concern ourselves with perhaps Normandy’s most famous food item:  Apples, and of course the fine apple brandy that comes from them. 

Known as Calvados, the brandy is produced throughout the region, and is quite delicious.  Unlike traditional brandy made from grapes, Calvados is made from the distillations of fermented apple juice.  It is delicious as an apéritif or a digestif, and of course it is a great ingredient to cook with.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Normandy a few times, and it was there I discovered this delicious dish.  I loved it then, and I think you will now. 

Chicken Normandy

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
6 Strips Bacon
1/4 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon each Salt and Pepper
1 Teaspoon Granulated Garlic
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Medium Onion, Diced
1/2 Cup Calvados
1 Cup Apple Juice or Cider
2-3 Tart Apples, Peeled, Cored and Cut into Slices
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme, Chopped (or Teaspoon Dry Thyme)
Fresh Chives, Chopped, to Garnish

Fry the Bacon until crispy.  

Remove bacon, crumble and reserve. 

Make a blend of the salt, pepper, onion powder and granulated garlic.  

Season the chicken breasts with this, then dredge them in the flour.  Sauté them in the bacon grease for about four minutes a side, then place them in an oven proof dish and hold them in the oven at 375F until your sauce is ready.  (The breasts will continue to cook in the oven, so keep an eye on them if you take too long to make your sauce) 

Add the onions to the skillet and cook for a few minutes, until they begin to turn clear.  Add the Calvados and scrape pan with a spatula to break up browned bits.  Let Calvados reduce a bit, then add the apple juice or cider.  

Let this reduce by half, then gather up the apples you've sliced...

...and add them to the mix.  Let these cook for several minutes until they are tender, 

then add the cream... 

and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half.  Add butter and allow to melt through.  

Reduce heat and stir in the thyme.  

Stir to let the thyme’s flavor permeate. 

Remove the chicken from the oven and arrange on plates.  Ladle the sauce over the breasts, making sure to get several apple slices on each plate.  Serve immediately, garnishing with the chives and bacon.

Here we’ve served the dish with some simple roast potatoes.  

Until next time,

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Straw and Hay Pasta

This is a delightful yet simple little Italian dish that is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the tongue.  The name comes from the fact that the two colored fettuccini noodles you use (green and yellow) resemble a mix of straw and hay.  Cute, huh?

Of course, this got me to wondering, (city boy that I am), which is supposed to be which?  And furthermore, what’s the difference between ‘hay’ and ‘straw?’  To the internet, Robin!

A little research reveals that there is a difference between hay and straw.  Hay, apparently, is the green one.  It refers to grasses cut down fresh and baled for animal feed.  Straw is the dried stalks of wheat or other cereal plants.  It is not animal feed, but is used as mulch or bedding.  Of course, when we see some bucolic farmer’s market display with beige-colored (straw colored?) bales of ‘hay,’ what we are really seeing is bales of straw.  You generally have to go to a farm or ranch to see (or smell) real, honest to goodness hay.

So, now that we know that hay is green and straw is yellowish, we can get to cooking. 

Straw and Hay Pasta

2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Onion, Minced
6-8 Thin Slices Prosciutto
1 Cup Frozen Peas
1 Cup Heavy Cream
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
6 Oz Egg Fettuccini
6 Oz Spinach Fettuccini
Grated or Shredded Parmesan
Fresh Thyme (optional)

Fill a large stockpot with salted water and bring to a boil. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet, 

then mince your onion

and add it to the butter.  Sauté for a few minutes until the onions are turning clear but not brown. 

While the onions are cooking, julienne your prosciutto into thin strips and reserve.   

When the onions are somewhat clear, add the frozen peas and let warm through.

Add the prosciutto and let cook for a few minutes. 

At this point, add your fettuccini noodles to the boiling water.  

Boil until they are al dente. 

Add heavy cream to the skillet 

and allow this to simmer for a few minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking. 
Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.  Add a little fresh thyme if you have it. 

When the noodles are ready

Add them to the sauce 

and stir until noodles are well-coated. 

Serve immediately with some freshly grated parmesan. 

Until Next Time,