Thursday, September 23, 2010

Recipes Of The World: Italy

Good evening everyone! Tonight marks the third (and final) stop on our 'recipes of the world' tour here on the blog. On yet another rainy, cool day here in the greater Des Moines metro, it was nice to make another culinary escape. Tonight, we traveled to the beautiful country of Italy. As I mentioned yesterday, both of tonight's recipes were on my list of 'to do's', however, we decided that in order to prevent dinner being finished at 8:00 PM and the blog going up at 10:30, we were going to have to share these recipes. That means a return to 'kitchen collaboration'. Tonight, Maggie tackled the main dish, lighter chicken parmesan. While I took on the side dish, butternut squash risotto. I'll turn the keyboard over to Maggie and let her start the evening off with her chicken parmesan recipe.

The Recipe: Lighter Chicken Parmesan
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2nd Edition: Every Recipe from the Hit TV Show With Product Ratings and a Look Behind the Scenes

What You'll Need:

1 1/2 Cups Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Ounce Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
3 Large Egg Whites
1 Tablespoon Water
3 (7 to 8 Ounce) Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
Simple Tomato Sauce (Barilla Italian Marinara)
3 Ounces Mozzarella Cheese (Shredded)
1 Tablespoon Minced Basil

The Recipe: Butternut Squash Risotto
Original Recipe Found In:The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2nd Edition: Every Recipe from the Hit TV Show With Product Ratings and a Look Behind the Scenes

What You'll Need:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Butternut Squash (Peeled, seeded - seeds reserved, cubed into 1/4 inch cubes)
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 Cup Water
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 Small Onions
2 Medium Garlic Cloves
2 Cups Arborio Rice
1 1/2 Cups Dry White Wine
1 1/2 Ounces Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons Minced Sage Leaves
1/4 Teaspoon Grated Nutmeg

For The Chicken Parmesan

Hi everybody!  As I am writing this, I'm still wiping the sweat off my brow.  After I settled in to make tonight's recipe, I realized I told Tyler I would pick up some of the ingredients that we forgot to pick up on our grocery night.  After I got back to the apartment, I realized that I was past the time that I was going to start my portion of the meal tonight.  So, needless to say, I was scrambling to get my part done. But here's how it went:

Preheat an oven to 475 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack over the sheet.  Meanwhile, combine the bread crumbs and oil in a skillet and lightly toast over medium heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Spread the bread crumbs on a plate to cool.  Once the crumbs cool, add the parmesan cheese.

While the crumbs cool, cover the chicken with plastic wrap and pound the chicken into quarter of an inch thickness.  Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.  

In another plate, combined the flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  In a bowl, whisk together the water and the egg whites.  Lightly dip the chicken in the flour mixture until completely coated - shake to remove the excess flour.  With a pair of tongs, dip the chicken in the egg mixture until completely coated as well.  Place the chicken in the bread crumbs mixture and coat.  Press to adhere the bread crumbs to the chicken.  Place the chicken on the wire rack.

Spray the chicken with cooking spray and place in the oven.  Cook until the chicken is firm when pressed, about 15 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the oven and top the chicken with the simple tomato sauce and the mozzarella cheese.  Place back in the oven for five more minutes until the cheese is melted.  Take the chicken back out of the oven and top with basil and serve!! 

For The Risotto:

To begin preparing the risotto, you will first have to peel and slice the squash. Don't have the first clue about how to do this? Never fear (I didn't either!) after a little research on my end, I am now a self proclaimed 'expert' on butternut squash carving. So sit back for 'Introdtuction to butternut squash 101 - carving'

First, you'll need the right tools to carve the little bugger up. For this task you're going to need two knives, a strong serrated knife and a VERY sharp chef's knife (8 inches or larger - the bigger it is, the better leverage you can get while slicing). In addition, you'll need a melon baller or a large scooping spoon (a melon baller works the best). Finally, you'll need a 'Y' hanled vegetable peeler (better leverage than the standard straight peeler)

Begin by slicing the first 1/4 inch off of the top of the squash (essentially, the top and everything that touches the stem). Now, most of the websites and books I read on slicing a butternut squash said that this task could be done with only a strong chef's knife. I don't know what world these people were giving gourd cutting advice from - but it wasn't the real world. These suckers are so tough that you end up putting a dangerous amount of weight on the chef's knife. Keeping yourself off balance with a round object and sharp knife are not ideas that I would recommend you try. As such, I found a strong serrated knife works best in this situation. That allows you to 'saw' the top portion away - greatly reducing the risk of injury.

Next, slice the bottom 1/4 inch off of the squash as well. Try to get the cut as flat as possible, as this surface is going to be your leverage point in the next few steps. Once again, I recommend that you use the serrated blade and simply saw off the bottom portion. Test your squash for stability after cutting. Place the squash on its newly sliced base and press down. If it wobbles, use your chef's knife to trim at the bottom until you have a level surface. Use the 'Y' peeler and work away at the skin until the squash is totally 'naked'. It is a slow process - but keep at it and you should be done in a few minutes.

Once everything is squared away, take your chef's knife and slice down the center of the squash, breaking it into two halves. This should reveal the (gooey) center of the squash. Since we are using the seeds and strings of the squash, you'll want to take extra care and scoop out the innards into a small bowl. This is where the melon baller comes into play. Using the baller, you should be able to make quick work of the guts of the gourd.

Once sufficiently gutted, turn your attention to slicing the squash even further down. I saw multiple techniques for making even, accurate cuts of the squash - all of which I attmepted to duplicate - and had great difficulty duplicating. As such, I'll simply say that your end goal is to have 1/4 inch cubes of squash. However you decide to go about carving from here is up to you.

Now that your squash is peeled, sliced, gutted and cubed, you're ready to get cooking!

Begin by heating 2 tablespoons of oil in a large 12 inch non-stick skillet until slightly smoking. Pour in the cubes of squash and allow to cook undisturbed for 3 to 5 minutes or until slightly golden brown.

Next add your salt and pepper and stir the cubes. Allow them to cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until completely golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Once the cubes are golden brown and slightly tender, transfer them to a large bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, add the seeds and strings that you reserved from earlier. Cook the seeds on medium high heat (stirring constantly) until them are golden brown. Once browned, transfer the seeds and other various pieces of gourd guts into a sauce pan with the chicken broth and water. Heat the mixture on high heat (covered) until it reaches a simmer. Once simmering, lower the heat to medium and allow to lightly simmer.

Next, melt your butter in the newly emptied skillet. Add in your onions, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are softened and slightly golden, roughly 3 to 5 minutes. Add your rices to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, or until the sides of the rice begin to become translucent. Be wary of stirring in circles here, that will cause the rice to spill over the pan. Instead, stir from the outside in, making sure to keep all rice inside the skillet.

Add your wine to skillet and stir, allow to cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the wine has been completely absorbed. While this is cooking, you can turn your attention to the broth. Using a strainer, strain all of the seeds and strands from the broth. Return the strained broth to low heat to keep warm. You can now discard the seeds.

The idea behind cooking the seeds was to enhance the squash flavor of the dish. As the seeds cooked, the fantastic aroma of fresh squash filled the kitchen. By cooking the seeds and then adding them to the broth, you are essentially 'boosting' the flavor of the final dish.

Once the wine is fully absorbed, add 3 cups of the hot broth to the skillet. In addition, add 1/2 of the cubed squash. Simmer the mixture, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes. Cook for 12 minutes or until all of the broth has been absorbed.

Once absorbed, continue to add the broth in 1/2 cup intervals, stirring after each addition. Continue this process until the rice is completely cooked and tender (the only sure way to do this is to taste check the rice - constantly).

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the parmesan cheese, sage and nutmeg. Fold in the remaining squash as well. Fold everything together well and serve immediately!

The Results:

While it was a hectic night in the kitchen, especially for Maggie - who was master of the measuring cup, it was well worth it in the end.

The chicken was full of flavor and packed a great outer crunch. You simply cannot complain with the marinara, mozzarella and chicken flavor pairing. Delicious. The chicken was slightly dry - but that was due to the long time it had to be 'in holding' while we waited for my dish to finish. No fault of the chef, only the others that also needed the kitchen.

The risotto had many, many layers of complex flavors. The squash was not nearly as abundant in this dish as I would have liked, mainly because the sage overpowered it slightly. A future attempt at this dish would see me reducing the sage to 1 teaspoon and allowing the squash to run the show. All in all, great flavor combinations and amazing textures made this a delicious side dish.

That's all we have for you this evening! We hope you enjoyed our 'recipes around the world' week, we had a lot of fun doing something a little bit different than the norm. Unfortunately, we have another weeked that is being sabotaged with my work schedule, so no farmer's market or Saturday morning recipe. We have an exciting development in our waffle making abilities, but I don't think I've used this particular product enough to warrant a full review yet - so I'm holding off on a Sunday 'product review' post as well. That means we're done for the week! We'll see you back here on Monday evening with a new grocery list and a new week of possibilities. Until then,


1 comment:

  1. Truly amazing, Mouthwatering, Fantastic Photos to help the wonderful recipe, Love the Chicken Parmesan.