Monday, September 12, 2011

Simple Late Summer Supper

Just one quick thing for a night when you are rushing about and before the last of the summer veggies leave the garden. Chicken Provencal (sort of).  Sounds fancy, doesn't it?  Don't let a long name fool you.  This dish is just a matter of tossing together some odds and ends you probably have in your fridge, popping it into a really hot oven  and then forgetting about it.  Well actually, you won't forget about it because it sends a delicious, homey  fragrance wafting through the air.  Expect mouths to water in anticipation of a feast! The finished product is so pretty, that it easily goes straight from oven to table.  

Traditional Chicken Provencal is a lovely sort of chicken stew.  You brown the chicken, then braise it long and slow with tomatoes, wine and broth.  It is utterly delicious, but time consuming. This version simplifies the process.

Chicken Provencal

Notes: What piece of chicken to use for this?  This is one instance where I prefer bone-in thighs. Dark meat doesn't dry out in flavorless, dusty bits.  It holds up well to high heat and only gets better the longer you cook it.  But if boneless/skinless white meat is what you have on hand, use it!  Just be sure to adjust to a shorter cooking time. If you decide to use white meat,  cover with foil part of way through to help retain moisture.

  • 8-10 small chicken pieces
  • 1/2 of lemon, sliced thin
  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion (or more to taste) chopped into large chunks
  • 5-6 smashed cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • a couple stems  of fresh herbs - I used rosemary and oregano.   Nothing fresh in the house? Substitute 1-2 teaspoons dried.  Parsley would also be good here.
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock.
  • Optional: Big fat Kalumata olives or capers would be great in this dish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse chicken and pat dry with a paper towel.  You can leave the skin on or off.  Arrange in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Scatter about the tomatoes, onion, garlic and lemon.  Drizzle on the olive oil and toss everything around a little to coat.  Season all with salt and pepper and thyme. Lay springs of fresh herbs if using, or sprinkle on dried. 

Place pan in oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes of cooking at high heat, pour chicken stock around the edges.  Turn oven down to 400 and bake for 45 minutes.  Sometimes I cover with foil and sometimes I forget.  Either way is fine.  Serve with nice crusty bread to soak up the delicious pan juices. 

An easy side dish for this, is a pan of roasted vegetables.  Recently, I used a mixture of baby potatoes, baby carrots, onions, and eggplant.  Toss with a couple cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper and a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Place in the oven alongside chicken.  Bake for an hour or until veggies and browned and cooked through.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Apple Cake with Carmel Drizzle

No doubt about it, fall is in the air.  Although, in this neck of the woods, just because it's 60-degrees-throw-open-the-windows-break-out-the-sweater-wave-bye-bye-to-humidity one day, doesn't mean it won't be a sweltering, steamy 90 degrees two days later.  That's okay.  We embrace the fall moments when they come and revel in the fading days of summer.

To celebrate the much anticipated glimpses of a changing season, I took the kids apple picking.  We crunched through more then our share of  Gala and Honeycrisp apples, slurped up freshly made cider and filled baskets brimful with rosy-cheeked fruit. When we got home, what was there to do with our bounty but make cake of course?  A fall treat my kids beg for every year is this cake.  Mind you it is no light and  fluffy dainty, but a super-moist, chunky, fruit-studded delight.. The icing on the cake - literally in this case- is brown sugar and butter cooked together into a delectable sauce that it's hard to keep your fingers out of.

I will confess to you that I tried to "healthy" this recipe up by swapping in whole wheat flour, slashing the sugar, increasing the applesauce and leaving out the oil.  Yeah, don't bother.  It's cake, for Pete's sake.  Go ahead and eat your broccoli because this ain't it.  Then you can dive into cake - but only after you've eaten your veggies!

Oh - and by the way.  When you do make this cake, promise you won't be like me follow directions and sift the  confectioners sugar for the icing.  Otherwise you may land up with lumpy, bumpy frosting.  Which will not affect the flavor in the least, but may cause you to huff loudly in disgust.

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
3  eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup applesauce
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (not a deal-breaker if you don't have this ingredient on hand - just leave it out)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cored, peeled and finely chopped apples - look for a good tart baking apple
1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (optional for those nut-haters out there  - you know who you are!)

Preheat oven to 350. 

Grease and flour a 9x13 pan, or a bunt pan or two 9 inch cake pans.  Pick your cake shape according to what inspired you at the moment.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, vanilla, oil and applesauce and mix until well blended.  In another bowl sift together flour, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.  Fold in the apples and walnuts.

Bake for 55 minutes - 1 hour for a 9 x 13 or a bunt pan, a little less for the round cake pans.  Cake is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Carmel Drizzle
1/2 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar(or light brown)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In small saucepan, melt butter and sugar together. Add milk and salt.  Bring up to a boil and cook for about a minute, stirring.  Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes or so.  Whisk in confectioners sugar and vanilla.  This icing sets up fast as it cools.  Don't be afraid to add a few drops of hot water if you need to thin down the consistency.

Drizzle over warm cake.  YUM!

Apple cake: