So, if you’ve been reading at all lately then you know I have really strong and fond feelings about “The Family Dinner” by Laurie David and Kirsten Uhrenholdt. And, though summer has decided to finally peak out from behind the clouds here in the Bay Area as of late, I know for many of you–ok, probably MOST of you–thoughts are turning to fall. The recipe I offer today from David and Uhrenholdt’s cookbook just oozes fall. It’s warm, it’s hearty, and it features apples and, whether you’re finally basking in the warmth of the sun or giddily lapping up crisp autumn air, it’s sure to be a hit.
Did I mention that it’s easy? Because it is. And everyone in my family ate it to boot.
Apple Cider Chicken
with Caramelized Onions and Apples
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless organic chicken thighs, trimmed, each piece cut into 2 pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, cut into wedges
3 slices of bacon, chopped
2 tart apples, peel left on, cut into wedges
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
method (makes 4-6 servings)
In a large bowl, combine the apple cider, salt, rosemary, and chicken. Set aside.
preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large ovenproof nonstick pan, drizzle the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion wedges and bacon. Saute over medium heat until the onions are wilted and golden. This will take 10-15 minutes. Now add the apples and saute until they start to soften around the edges and get a bit of color as well, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain the chicken, reserving the apple cider for later. Toss the chicken pieces in the flour.
Remove the apples and onions from the pan. If you need to, add a drizzle of olive oil to the same pan. Over medium heat, lightly brown the chicken. You might have to do this in two batches.
When all the chicken is golden, add the apple cider vinegar and the reserved apple cider. Stir well, add the chicken stock, bring back to a simmer, and then pile the apples and onions on top (this is just vanity–the dish looks better this way).
Stick the pan in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
Rachel here: One of the perks to having a baby is the justification of television watching. We don’t have cable at our house and so the options are often pretty grim. However, on Saturdays here, there are tons of cooking shows on public television. One recent Saturday there was a Julia Child marathon. The whole thing was awesome, but the episode that really caught my attention was the egg episode. Click here to watch a clip from the episode. I swear you, too, will want to make omelettes afterwards!
I should warn you, though. I can make an omelette, sure. But a Julia Child omelette is a whole different beast. While she makes it look effortless, as you might be able to tell from my picture (which is really only half an omelette since I had the brilliant idea to make a giant omelette for John and I to share…not recommended when you’re trying to master a new technique. Fewer eggs would definitely have been easier!), it’s a little more complex than Julia makes it seem.
I’m determined, though, to master these scrumptious french omelettes. John can make them and, really, they’re superior to their overcooked counterpart that serves as the standard. When done right, they’re incredibly soft and gooey. I’ll keep you posted as my efforts continue. In the meantime, I can recommend the insides I chose to stuff our omelette with (heirloom tomatoes, white onion, ricotta and goat cheeses) and serving it with a side salad of arugula. Even in an overcooked omelette I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy your meal.
Rachel here: Had John and I not already decided to make this little union of ours official under the eyes of the law before I first developed this recipe, I would be completely convinced that he married me for this meal. I imagine that when I am having one of my more, shall we say, difficult days that John thinks of this meal and it helps him get through my raging, take-no-prisoners, psychotic pregnant hormones. I was proud of it the first time I made it because I developed the whole thing myself (a personal first, I think). Then, when I put it on the dinner table and John began to dig in, I became exceedingly proud as he looked up at me between mouthfuls and said, “You really do love me, after all. This is the first time you’ve really fed me right.” Of course, this is an exaggerated statement (John is nothing if not an appreciative partner); however, the sentiment that I had really hit the nail on the head made me beam. Like, my face hurt. It was awesome.
Anyway, since that fateful evening when I finally did right by my man I haven’t made this recipe a second time (the accompanying sides, which I will post about later in the week, feature a lot of bacon…enough that neither of us would feel good eating this with regularity and enough that eating it is incredibly satisfying). This go around I did a few things differently (I made more pork for one thing since we were supposed to have company for dinner, though illness intervened in that plan, and I also used ham hock instead of bacon for the sides) and I feel like the recipe worked just as well. Anyway, give it a try and let me know what you think.
Falling Off the Bone Pork
feeds 2 to 4 depending on how many chops you use
2-5 pork chops (depending on size and how many people you’re looking to feed)
1-2 large white or yellow onions, sliced (more onion for more pork)
1+ cup of apricot jam (to your taste)
3 c. dark and hoppy beer (I used Rogue’s Mocha Porter)
2 T. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Season your pork chops in olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder and salt and pepper. Place them in the biggest pan you have over medium-high heat, browning both sides (approximately 4 minutes per side). Place the sliced onion on top of the chops. Combine 3 cups of beer with your cup of apricot jam to taste and pour into pan. Add white wine vinegar (if your beer doesn’t have much bite to it, you might want to add more vinegar). Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for at least 2 hours, until the meat falls off the bone (if you’re not sure if the meat is falling off the bone, it isn’t…this is one of those awesomely obvious moments in cooking).
Tune in Wednesday and Friday to learn about the rest of what I do for this meal (including cornbread, which isn’t pictured below)…
Janet here: Or if pork isn’t your fancy (it may be “the other white meat” but it isn’t according to my food lexicon so I don’t “do” pork) instead try this barbecue pulled chicken.
I had never made this before and, frankly, I think I missed out on a couple of decades of serving dinner to some picky kids who would have loved this. Oh well, maybe I can win points with grandchildren or lure my nearly-adult children back for a dinner if this is on the menu.
I got this recipe from my new favorite chef, Ellie Krieger (I’ll be back, Ina!) whose recipes I clearly will be copying for quite a while since I have two of her cookbooks (see post on her muffins from So Easy, which are great!) and have yet to make a bad recipe. This recipe is perfect when you have had a rough day at work or with the kids and want something really easy. Unlike Rachel’s pulled pork, which seems pretty labor intensive to me, this recipe relies on picking up a rotisserie chicken! Love that! The sauce is made from scratch, though, so this completely counts as a home-cooked meal, again referring to that personal food lexicon. Click here and enjoy!
Janet here: In the winter in the Northeast, I turn to chili when I want an easy dinner that will satisfy. First, I can make it ahead. Second it’s easy. Oh and then there’s the nutrition factor. It’s made of all kinds of stuff that are good for you (which also meant that it was a dish that I used to sneak good food into my kids when they were younger without them realizing it. I have one son, for instance, who will not eat beans or onions in pieces … except he does in chili so haha.)
But I digress.
Anyway, I make a lot of different kinds of chili, including a very tasty white one that I just discovered this past year. I decided for this post, however, to do the vegetarian one since my carniverous daughter was going to be including some kind of meat. So on to the dish, which of course is also just a great way to have a lot of melted cheese too. This batch will serve 6-8.
1 large yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 19 ounce can red kidney beans
1 15 ounce can black beans
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with jalapeno
about 1/2 cup rice
chili powder, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste
In a large cooking pot, put in the oil and saute the onions and garlic until translucent. Then add the beans, tomatoes, rice and seasonings. Cook, covered, on low heat until the rice is done. Serve with grated cheese and sour cream.
Rachel here: Chili is awesome. I really think this. First, it’s a vehicle for cheese and sour cream. Second, it’s warm. Third, it’s hearty. Fourth, it’s easy. Really, it’s like a wonder-food. For this batch I used a combination of leftover items in my fridge along with umm…non-leftover items (there must be a better way to say that). And, in the end, I now have new leftovers, but now they are of the chili variety (yeah!) and some will be frozen in portions for a future evening and the rest will be eaten for lunches and whatnot this week. It’s a happy day here in Oakland (oh, and it’s a bit chilly, too…ha ha ha).
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
28 oz. whole peeled tomatoes (I use the organic variety and, I dare say, you should, too)
28 oz. ground peeled tomatoes
2/3 lb. flank steak, cubed
1 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast
1 c. chicken stock (or more if you have it…just use that instead of the water)
2 c. water
4 c. beans (NOT dried…I used the leftover black beans I posted about last week)
6 large fresh basil leaves
2-3 T. fresh lemon thyme
2 c. couscous (already cooked)
2 c. fresh chopped spinach
salt and pepper
In a large pot, saute the onion, garlic and sweet potato in butter. Add tomatoes, steak, chicken stock, water, beans, chicken breast (I like to put it in whole and then pull it out after it’s cooked, chop it up and throw it back in), couscous, spinach, basil (I just tear these up as I throw them in) and thyme. Let simmer until starts to cook down and chicken is cooked. Add spices listed above to taste. This recipe makes a big old pot of chili so I don’t cook it down quite as far as I would if I were serving it all at once so that in future re-heatings I won’t have to water it down. Sprinkle cheese on top and add a dollop of sour cream and go get cozy.
Rachel here: Oh, we all know those days. You know, the ones where you come home and you sort of realize that your day isn’t actually over yet because there’s still dinner to figure out. As a city-dweller, this often leads to take-out or delivery in my house. Sometimes, though, even that seems like more effort than I can handle, what with the plentitude of options and then the inevitable waiting. On these nights, there is a staple in my house: the quesadilla. There are always (and I do mean always) tortillas in my freezer and cheese in the fridge. Throw in whatever random vegetable and meat bits we have leftover and a hearty dinner is mere minutes away (particularly if you have made a batch of black beans earlier in the week…see Wednesday’s post). After a long day, I can’t think of anything better.
flour tortillas (I prefer corn and John prefers flour, which is what I ended up using for these)
grated cheese (I used a bit of jack and a bit of cheddar)
chicken, chopped into uniform bite-sized piece
avocado (I recognize that avocados and tomatoes aren’t in season everywhere, so substitute with a good local alternative)
salt and pepper
Cook chicken in large pan, seasoning to your preference with salt, pepper and cayenne. Prepare tortillas by lining one half with a bit of cheese before dividing chicken up amongst them and covering with cheese (Amounts for tortillas, cheese and chicken will vary depending on how many you’re looking to feed. I used one large tortilla per person and divided about 3/4 lb. of chicken between them). Place these tortilla pockets back into pan you cooked chicken in (one-dirty-dish cooking is part of the beauty of this easy dinner option!). Flip after a few minutes, once underside is nicely browned and cheese has started melting. Serve when everything is hot and gooey, garnishing with diced tomato and avocado on top and serving with lime wedges on the side. Of course, various hot sauces and sour cream should be waiting on the table to optimal enjoyment. Yum!
Janet here: Rachel has the best idea here for a simple supper you can throw together in minutes. I wish I had thought of it but I didn’t so there it is. Anyway my main way of making supper easy these days is cooking ahead. Shepherd’s Pie is my go-to comfort dinner in the winter months, and it’s a crowdpleaser so it’s doubly satisfying. I make this shepherd’s pie using ground turkey because I don’t eat red meat. I also use taco seasoning as my secret seasoning ingredient. In other words, it’s tacos with mashed potatoes, making it a win-win for feel-good meals. Here’s how I do it.
1 pound ground turkey
1 package taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups corn (I use frozen)
dried onion flakes to taste (this is the way I get onions into things for picky eaters)
4 Russet potatoes
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown the turkey in a little oil. Add the taco seasoning and follow directions for regular tacos. Add in the corn. After it’s done, place in the bottom of a casserole baking dish.
While the meat mixture is cooking, cut up some potatoes (skins on is my preference), cook in boiling water until tender. Then drain, put back into the pot with a stick of butter. Mash up the potatoes, add salt and pepper to taste, maybe a little chicken broth with the sour cream to make them as smooth as you like. Sometimes I add grated cheese as well if I’m feeling really decadent.
Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until it’s bubbling slightly.
Rachel here: For our final installment of variations on a theme this week we figured we should offer up an entree to assure you that we don’t actually only eat appetizers and desserts (although neither one of us would be opposed). Since there are very few meat items that we both eat, we settled on chicken as the jumping off point. In my house, chicken is a staple of sorts, a go-to dinner ingredient due to its quick and easy-to-cook nature. My partner works and goes to school, I go to school (like it’s my job…we are talking a majorly type A personality here) and often by the time we are both home and the rest of our lives have been dealt with, we crave something warm and filling with minimal effort (with effort for us translating also into number of dishes generated since we don’t currently have a dishwasher…but, as I’ve said before, more on that later) and so, with regularity, we find ourselves staring at plates with chicken on them. Earlier in our relationship when all we wanted was to feast on dreamy stares across the table at each other our chicken was often similar: pounded, cut, marinated, cooked and served on top of salad. There was and is nothing wrong with this approach. These days, though, our chicken (oh, and our relationship) takes a little more effort to hold our interest. The recipe I’ve chosen to share below is an easy one with just that little extra pizazz to liven the dinner table up and leave us both feeling a little warmer and fuzzier after a long hard day.
Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
serves 4 (half a stuffed breast per person)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1.5 oz. goat cheese
1 tspn. unsalted butter
3/4 tspn. minced chives
1/2 tspn. minced parsley leaves
1/8 tspn. minced thyme
1/8 tspn. lemon juice
1/8 tspn. minced garlic
salt and pepper
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tspn. water
1 1/4 T. paprika
1 T. garlic powder
1/2 T. onion powder
1/2 T. cayenne
1/2 T. oregano
1/2 T. dried thyme
Preheat your over to 350 degrees. Lay the chicken flat on your cutting board and, about 1/3 of the way down the thicker side of each breast, cut a deep pocket horizontally into the center of the meat, roughly 3/4 of the way down the side. Be very careful not to cut all the way through.
In a small bowl mash together the goat cheese, butter, chives, parsley, fresh thyme, lemon juice and garlic, adding salt and pepper to taste. Divide this cheese mixture between the pockets you cut into your chicken breasts and then press the edges of the meat to seal the mixture in. Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl (large enough to lay your chicken breasts flat in it), combine flour and all of the ingredients from the list above that follow the vegetable oil (paprika through dried thyme), adding 1 T. of salt and pepper each. In a second bowl of comparable size beat the egg and water together.
Lightly dust the chicken on both sides with the flour mixture, dip it in the egg and water mixture (shaking to remove excess), and then place the chicken in the flour mixture a second time. Shake off excess.
In an oven-proof skillet (if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can buy them at your local hardware store for less than $20…I highly recommend owning one if you don’t and have found that searing is never easier than in cast iron), heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and sear until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Place the skillet in your pre-heated oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 7-10 minutes.
As you can see in the photo above, I usually serve this chicken with a simple salad. It makes a hearty and nutritious dinner that tastes like way more effort than it takes. I whisk together a little oil and vinegar to make a simple salad dressing, add some local seasonal veggies (or, this time of year, some mandarin oranges) and serve the chicken and salad together. The meal is a bit of a staple in my house. Though I have yet to branch out beyond this version, I imagine you could stuff the chicken with any number of delicious cheese-based combinations. Any ideas? Anyway, hope you enjoy!
Janet here: Okay so my daughter decided to show me up making something that looks gorgeous on the plate for this meat staple. A little annoying, but while we are doing this blog together, the underlying theme is obviously Who is the Better Cook? It’s a competition I don’t intend to lose. Anyway, I’m in a cook-ahead mode of life for a variety of reasons, so this chicken stew satisfied that need and also my need to make something with chicken. I didn’t actually follow a recipe but rather made this up after looking over some other recipes. In other words, there’s lots of room for experimentation. Instead of tomatoes, for instance, why not try a white sauce to hold it all together? You could also make it more like a chili by using more southwestern spices, like chili powder, red pepper flakes, that kind of thing. The point is don’t be afraid to branch out.
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 potatoes, cubed into bite-size pieces, skin on (I hardly ever remove the skin even when I make mashed potatoes; lots of vitamins there)
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
2 skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes
spices to taste: salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, basil
Saute the onion, potatoes, carrots and chicken in a large pot with the spices. Once they’re nicely sauteed, add the tomatoes. Adjust spices to taste.