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Duck Confit / Duck Rillette / Duck Ravioli

ConfitYou know that phenomena when you hear a word for the first time, and out of nowhere it seems that everyone around you has started using that word from that point forward in everyday conversation?  As though you unlocked Pandora’s vocabulary and sent this strange, new word spiraling into the minds of those around you, like the word god you are.  We mortals call this oddity of life “perceptual vigilance”, and the phrase that chose itself to be perceptually vigilant in my mind as of late is the word confit.

The first time I came across this term was around 6 months or so ago, and I ticked my head to the side and mouthed, “con-fit?” pronouncing every ugly syllable, not realizing I was ignorantly pronouncing this French word as though I were a backwoods, Uncle-loving hobo.  The very idea of confit (which is pronounced con-fee, by the way) is enough to send me into a fit of happy sobs.  There are variations of confit to include vegetable and fruit confit, but in this instance we’re speaking of meat, people.  Not only meat, but meat that has been lightly cured and then, wait for it… completely submerged and slowly cooked for hours in its own fat until nearly fall-off-the-bone tender.  Isn’t that beautiful?  Poetry for the tongue, I say.

Confit

Confit in solidified duck fat.

After the meat has been cooked through in the fat, it is then cooled until the fat sets, which acts as a highly effective preservation method in which you can keep the meat at good quality for months.  So it’s not only beautiful, but it’s magical, too.

Given its corpulent, fatty ass nature, duck is one of the best meats to turn into confit. They’re rich with lard and have a flavor that lies somewhere on the spectrum between pork and turkey, which isn’t at all as unsavory as it may sound.  In fact, it’s quite nice.  One minor caveat is that duck confit isn’t cheap to make, which would be the only reason why I don’t fill up my tub and bathe in it.  Not to mention the hunt for rendered duck fat in Tampa Bay was like attempting to find a faction of Wal-Mart fanatics without a debilitating case of crippling halitosis.  That is, to say, it was difficult.

Rillette RavioliWhatever quandaries I was meant to face on this endeavor, I did so without question or qualm and came out victorious… sort of.  After curing my duck legs, I made the novice mistake of not rinsing off the salt cure and instead brushed it off before plopping them into the duck fat.  Once they were done, I took a bite and at once came face to face with a shame that only a slutty nun could identify with.  Shit was as salty as a sea snail’s scrotum, but all was fine and I had my duck fat-laced happy ending.  I transformed the confit into rillette and then turned the rillette into ravioli and the ravioli into dinner.  After all of this manipulation, the intense saltiness dissipated into welcomed brininess, and all was right with the world once more.

Well, except for the duck.

Duck Confit / Duck Rillette / Duck Ravioli

Rillette Ravioli
Duck Confit

Ingredients:

  • 2 duck legs and thighs
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • 1 head of garlic with top 1/4 cut off
  • 2 11oz bottles of Rougie duck fat

Directions

  1. Mix together dry ingredients and rub over duck legs.  Sprinkle remaining dry mix over duck legs, cover and refrigerate for up to three days, but ensuring at least one full day minimum.
  2. Rinse legs and pat dry, place in a pan with the head of garlic and cover completely with duck fat.
  3. Cook legs in duck fat over low heat for 2 1/2 to four hours where a temperature placed in the fat constantly reads between 190 and 210 degrees.  The duck will be done when a toothpick easily enters the meat.
  4. Let cool until room temperature and then immediately place in fridge to sit for at least one day or up to a few weeks (it can last much, much longer with proper storage).
  5. Over a double boiler, slowly melt duck fat and remove legs.  Place skin side down onto a thick bottomed frying pan over low heat and heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until skin becomes crisp and the meat is heated through.
  6. Once done, you can remove the garlic from the duck fat for another use and strain the duck fat back into their containers to be used again.

Duck Rillette

Ingredients

  • 2 legs duck confit
  • 4 cloves of garlic from duck confit batch (or fresh, if preferred)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup of slightly softened butter
  • 2 tbsp duck fat
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Shred meat duck confit into small pieces and combine all ingredients into a medium bowl. Mix well with fingers until well combined.  If it looks like cat food, you’ve done a good job.

Duck Rillette Ravioli

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Lay one sheet of pasta on a flat surface and add 1 tbsp of duck rillet every 2 inches.
  2. Cover with another sheet of pasta and press firmly around the meat and cut out to desired shape.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and remove from heat.
  4. Immediately add ravioli to water and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked through.

Custard Filled Shortbread and Me Being Punished for Too Much Dessert.

Custard Cake

A few weeks ago I made the brilliant decision to watch Paranormal Activity 2.  I’m normally not one for sequels since they are generally not very well done and seem to be rushed to meet the demand, causing a sloppy product, and this sequel was no exception.  But it was a stormy Florida summer day — which could have been any Florida summer day, really — and it just felt right.

It stopped feeling right really fast.  Halfway through the film I got painfully bored and brought my computer into the kitchen to watch this monstrosity of a movie while I baked.  This kind of detracts from really being immersed into the “suspense” of it, but what else are you going to do when you’re hungry, have adult ADHD and don’t believe in ghosts?

Custard Cake

My baking recipes by default are usually confectioneries, but when I felt a little ripple of human gelatin wobble in my lower back region, I hesitated.  But if we’re being honest, it didn’t really hinder me from making something sweet (what’s an ounce or two chub anyway?), but I decided to be fair to myself and compromised a little bit.

See, I love shortbread.  It’s has the weighted, biscuity consistency of a proper scone and can be either savory or sweet which makes it versatile in terms of what you do with it.  On this particular day, slathering it with pastry cream and stuffing it with fresh strawberries was what felt most right.

The custard I used for the filling and the glaze is what sweetens the shortbread the most.  It’s made very simply with egg yolks, milk, flour, sugar, half a scraped vanilla bean and a just little bit of unflavored gelatin because a) flour as a lone thickening agent doesn’t work here, so it would be too runny without it and b) I hate horses.  But not really.
Custard Cake
The overall creation was super easy and didn’t take much effort to complete and assemble.  Also, I may or may not have had four slices of the finished product while impatiently waiting for the movie to end (don’t finish what you can’t start, right?), but I wouldn’t ever admit to something like that.  Upon finishing the alleged fourth slice of shortbread a large bolt of lightning struck right outside my kitchen window like a jerk, which made me to jump and bite my tongue and also caused my power to go out.

It’s funny how much quiet you can hear when the hum of generators or air conditioning isn’t clouding up the atmosphere.  It’s also funny how many creepy as shit things you can hear when your power is out, it’s post-dusk, and you just finished watching Paranormal Activity.

Man, I shouldn’t have had that fourth piece.

Custard Filled Shortbread

Custard Cake

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 2 1/2 hours total

Ingredients & Directions:

For the shortbread:

  • 2 1/4 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, half and half or milk
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients.  Using your hands, cut in butter until well-mixed.  The mixture should look like course crumbs at this point.  In a separate bowl mix together egg, heavy cream and vanilla.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet, and stir together until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into a lightly greased and floured cake pan, spreading and evening out mixture with a spatula.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes and place on cooling rack.

For the custard:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, insides scraped or 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 1 packet (2.5 tsp) of unflavored gelatin

Directions:

  1. In a medium, heat-proof bowl mix together the salt, egg yolks, flour and 1/4 cup of sugar until well combined, about 2 to 3 minutes and set aside.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, heat up the milk, vanilla and the rest of the sugar until just boiling and remove from heat.
  3. Stirring constantly, SLOWLY drizzle the hot milk into the yolk mixture, making sure to not add too much at once and cook the yolks, until 1/2 the milk is combined with the eggs.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the pan with the rest of the milk and heat over medium high heat until boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens and remove from heat.
  5. Dissolve gelatin in 1 tbsp hot water and add mixture to the custard, stirring well.
  6. Transfer to a large bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap so it is touching the top of the custard and allow to cool on the counter.
  7. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until thoroughly chilled and has thickened up.

Carefully cut cooled shortbread in half, fill with desired amount of custard and serve with desired fruit.

Custard Cake

Organic vs Conventional: FIGHT!

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there is a huge war going on in the food world. A gargantuan war that is, as of now, at a total standstill and there’s slight probability of it being resolved in any quantifiable time frame.  This war will be dubbed The War of Organic and Conventional Foods (or for those in opposition: The War ON Organic Foods).

Organic tomatoes

A few weeks back I was reading a food health-related article penned by a writer that was emphatically supportive of eating ONLY organic foods, no ifs, ands, or pork butts about it.  Typically I tend to stray from the bottom of articles near the dreaded comments section where there are, without fail, innumerable armies of trolls lurking, begging for recognition with their all-too-common snide and snippy remarks.  Though try as I did, I couldn’t help but not ignore my curiosity, so I clicked the “See More / Leave a Comment” link to find out what the chickens were squawking about

As expected, the trolls were going full force on this one.  There were claims of secret, internal USDA conspirators, organic and natural foodie-centric name calling, and (my favorite) one British commenter in particular stated that she was going to defecate on the writer’s post AND face for writing such “rubbish propaganda.”  What delightful manners!

Interspersed between the crude, unintelligible and just plain batshit crazy comments were people who, surprisingly, hadn’t one clue what organic meant and why it is such a hot topic.  I wanted so badly to write out an informative and slightly unbiased reply to these individuals that were missing out on important details of healthy living.  But I think my adult ADD went into effect and I went to check my Facebook, then made a sandwich, and then played Angry Birds.  By the time I went back to the article a few days later and remembered what I had aimed to do, the article had disappeared into the black hole of cyberspace, never to be seen from or defecated on again.

Reading all of the comments from that one article I saw that a lot of these angry commenters weren’t just internet degenerates, but also real people who I realized were so frustrated by this article and others like it because they likely felt judged by the organic industry and its supporters.  These were people who felt this was not a war between organic and conventional, but of classes of people; the perceived snobby, elitist organic-eating toffs versus everyday people just trying to survive in an unfortunate economy.

Let’s even the playing field here.  Throw any and all preconceived notions of the organic industry out the window, because I am going to give a quick, non-exhaustive crash course on the difference between organic and conventional and how this affects you.

Colorful peppers and raw honey

First, organic foods are foods that are produced without the aid of chemicals, pesticides, hormones or anything beyond  good old fashioned, natural farmed produce and livestock.  Conventional foods are those that incorporate conventional farming (i.e. the use of pesticides, hormones, etc.) into their production as they assist with faster development, larger/cheaper output and thus bigger profits for companies.  This is also why a lot of shoppers will comment that organic foods are “so small” and blemished.  The fact is that what you are seeing when you look at organic goods is exactly as it should look.  Crazy, right?

The big issue at hand with conventional foods is that a lot of the chemicals and additives used to make the foods more appealing (aka chemically created bright colors), delicious (aka “natural” and artificial flavoring) and cost-effective (aka ingredients that are not exactly foods but are somewhat edible, even if barely digestible, and passed by the FDA as consumable and thus included in your meals) is that they have potentially harmful effects on the sensitive human body with long-term, excessive consumption.  I won’t go into the long laundry list of researched additives and their linked illnesses, but if you type a few of those strange sounding and/or unpronounceable ingredients into Google, you may not be too happy with what pulls up (but while we’re here, look up Olestra and its side effects — it’s sexy!).  Not only that, but we haven’t even touched on the negative impact it has on the environment or how some big businesses bully and take advantage of agricultural suppliers.

With all of that being said however, you do not need to eat an all organic, natural diet to be healthy.   There is really only a small list of  produce items that you should buy organic since these fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest trace amounts of pesticides, but that’s really it if you want to do the bare minimum of organic eating.  These are referred to as The Dirty Dozen.  And on the other hand, there is another list of produce that is the cleanest to eat and is overall fine to buy conventional as long as you wash them thoroughly.  These superheros are called The Clean Fifteen.  Everything else is in a gray area as far as pesticides go and it’s up to you to choose whether you wish to go organic or conventional.

Organic Potatoes

An excellent way to score some good and cost-efficient organic produce is to hit up your local farmer’s market and scour the stands for any vendors selling hormone- and pesticide-free fruits and veggies.  Not only will you meet some interesting people and save money, but you’ll be taking money out of harmful mass food producers’ pockets and supporting your local food market instead.  If you want to know where the nearest farmer’s market is to your home, the USDA has a great tool to help you find it!

The last time I went to my farmer’s market there was a vendor that insisted on feeding me cherry tomatoes and blueberries, bare handed.  I normally would have declined because of my slight neuroses regarding germs and um…really, who wants an unwashed blueberry touched by unwashed hands that probably rested on his unwashed genitals sometime earlier in the day (people are gross, by the way).  But when he sold me 1 lb of the fattest, organic blueberries and 30 of the most beautiful organic, Roma tomatoes I’d ever seen in my life for just $13 total, what choice did I really have?

Anyway, what we need to remember is that there really is no war of classes when it comes to buying food.  Sure, there are elitist foodies salivating over couture cuisine and then there the heads of households feeding their families, each with their own agenda, but neither is above the other because of what is served on their respective tables.  You are not less of a person because you cannot afford the best brand organic cereal.  Times are tough and we all have to do what we can by cutting costs where we can, but the quality of food put into your body should be the last to suffer. Food is food first and foremost and it’s meant to sustain you, so please respect your body and health by choosing only the highest quality ingredients when possible, and most importantly you must never, EVER threaten to crap on anyone’s face, ever.  It’s just plain rude.

Organic Yams and Onions

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, and Why Meat Should Not Be Sweet.

I grew up in a southern home.  I was taught proper manners, I was made to work hard — and with my hands — for whatever I wanted, and had our house decorated with rustic Civil War era knick knacks.  And mallard ducks for whatever reason.

Yes, I grew up in a ill-decorated southern home.  In addition to the above, there were many other trademark southern-home aspects to my childhood, and one that stuck out most was the food.  In our house, we had baked apple pies and chocolate cakes, we ate our mustard greens and collard greens with fervor, and fried just about anything we could, because we could.

One meal that seemed to go dance its way to our table fairly often was fried porkchops and applesauce; a truly southern dish that I truly could not care for.  I loved the porkchops on its own, and I practically drink applesauce by the jugful, but putting those two together is a gastronomical catastrophe.

Pork Tenderloin ingredients

Ingredients -- except ignore the tomatoes, their job is to just look pretty.

Ever since I was younger I have never enjoyed savory meats smothered in sweet sauces or sides, and I would snub my nose whenever it was offered.  Since then I’ve come out of my sweet-meat snobbery a bit and will eat it if it’s put in front of me, but you will never find me over a hot stove cooking teriyaki chicken or honey-glazed ham.  It’s just not happening.

Though the pork and apple gang tormented me endlessly when I was a boy, I look back on those family meals fondly.  I wanted to prepare a dish that was reminiscent of the porkchop/applesauce combination that my family seemed to favor, and today’s dish does just that.

Unfolded Tenderloin

The Unfolded Tenderloin -- feel free to wrap it around your shoulders for warmth.

I made a pork tenderloin that was stuffed with a blend of crimini mushrooms, prociutto, swiss cheese, white wine, garlic, onion and — the nod to childhood dinners — a green apple.

Surprisingly, I actually L-O-V-E-D the pork and apple combination, and I was fully expecting to be disappointed.  The tanginess of the apple was greatly complimented by the sweet white onion and balmy swiss.  It was tart enough to satisfy those sugar-lovin’ taste buds craving activity, but not enough to overpower the expected savory.

Maybe I’m a convert now.  Maybe I can now shout from the rooftops that I, Kerry Patrick, am a sweet meat lover.  Probably not, though.  I see this as a babystep toward introducing my adult taste buds to something a little different, and maybe it’ll catch on, maybe it won’t.  Either way, it will still be a good, long while before you see me slathering apple sauce on anything other than the inside of my mouth.

PORK TENDERLOIN STUFFED WITH APPLES, PROCIUTTO AND SWISS CHEESE

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 20 minutes prep, 40 to 50 minutes cooking

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • One pork tenderloin, preferably one that maintains the same thickness throughout
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, brushed off and diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • three slices prociutto, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 green apple, diced
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 3 to 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 cup white wine
  • olive oil for brushing
  • salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste
  • butcher’s twine

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
  2. Take the tenderloin and make a cut longways roughly one-third or the way from the edge, and slice it leaving about 1/2 inch from the bottom.  DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO THE BOTTOM.  Then run a knife through the other 2/3 of the tenderloin exactly as you did the first, leaving 1/2 inch thickness between the cut and the end of the tenderloin.  The idea is to be able to roll out the tenderloin so it is flat, and you will then be able to lay your stuffing onto it before rolling up.
  3. After rolling the tenderloin out, drizzle the white wine over the cut and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper and let it sit.
  4. Prepare the stuffing by adding the two tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.  Then add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of the liquid has reduced down to almost nothing.  Leaving a very small amount of liquid, add your apples and cook for two minutes and remove the pan from heat.
  5. Add the prociutto pieces to the rolled out tenderloin so it is mostly covered, and then add the Swiss cheese until the tenderloin is mostly covered.
  6. Finally, add the mushroom, onion and apple mix and spread across so it is evenly covering the tenderloin.  Be sure to not overfill as your tenderloin will end up overflowing and spilling out, which is just messy.
  7. Once the stuffing is in the tenderloin, take one side and start rolling toward the opposite end, being sure to make it rolled very tightly.  You are then going to take your butcher’s twine and tie up the roast, first on both ends so no stuffing spills out, and then throughout the middle to keep it together when baking.
  8. Brush a baking sheet lightly with olive oil and put tenderloin in the center.  Brush tenderloin lightly with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Place in oven and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until done.  Be sure to not overcook and dry out your pork!
  9. Once done, let the tenderloin sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

Here Comes the Pasta Parade!

Feeling a bit amorous this weekend, I thought to try out a few recipes inspired by the country of love, Italy.  Or is it France that’s the country of love?  I don’t know, we Americans generally equate anything Western European to that of romance.  Except for Germany, of course.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it’s the accent.

Can I interest you in two whipped eggs in a delicious, unbleached flour bowl?

While I may not know which country best represents love, I sure as heck know that my wrists are extremely sore.  Why?  Well, for that question I have only one answer: KNEADING.

I thoroughly enjoy pastas and breads.  You could say carbs are the apple of my eye, my sweetheart, and quite literally, the bread to my butter.  Every time I get the smart idea to make it from scratch, I start out extremely ambitious and end with the vow that I will never again do it because of the amount of effort I have to exert.

Knead, fold, knead, fold aaaaaand repeat.

But like any excellent lover (and I mean excellent), it beckoned me.  It fed me promises that momentarily lapsed my judgment, telling me that this time things will be different, and somehow made me to forget how much those seductive wheat-filled hand-breakers have hurt me so.  And much like any fool who’s ever been in love, I trusted these empty words and fell for Carb’s old tricks.  Hook, line, and sinker.

I’d like to say I learned my lesson this time, but in every bit of honesty I probably haven’t.  I mean, have you HAD homemade bread?

Ball of pasta

Delicious ball of pasta.

For this post I’m going to focus completely on the pasta dishes made and share with you the other delectable treats on ensuing posts throughout the week.

To start our Italian marathon, I made my very first batch of farfalle pasta ever, which was a momentous occasion for this pasta-loving man.  While a lot of people call this type of pasta “bow tie” pasta, the word farfalle actually means butterfly in Italian.  Neither fancy neck wear nor mutant caterpillars bring about an appetite in me, so I just call it farfalle.

They see me rollin, they hatin.

The homemade farfalle was tossed it into a light but satisfying — and ultra Italian — pasta pomodoro that is comprised of Roma tomatoes, garlic, white wine, basil Parmesan cheese, and other tasties.

The best part is that this dish is served with all fresh, organic produce filled with nutrients and essential vitamins, and it is incredibly easy and quick to make.  If you’re not interested in having sore hands, you can open up a box of farfalle from the supermarket.  I know not everyone has the time or energy to make their own pasta from scratch, but I promise nobody will judge you, you big, fat cheater.

Next up on the list was spinach pasta, which was made the exact same way as I had made the original pasta, only this time *SPOILER ALERT* I added spinach.  Surprise!

Big ol' sheet of spinach pasta.

With this pasta I added used a very basic chunky tomato basil sauce and threw in the remaining spinach I had on hand.  Like most comfort food, it was simple and satisfying on various levels.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my sore hands yet, but they very, very sore.  And raw.  And achy.  Although I’m most assuredly going to find out I have carpal tunnel any day now, I have to say that the entire pasta-making experience was an overall enjoyable one.  So enjoyable, I may actually make it again sometime not so very soon!  Carbs, you may not be perfect, but I’m glad to see that you’re not quite as heinous as I’d remembered.

Spinach pasta waterfalls.

So dear reader, if you see me in the grocery store shopping for more pasta-based ingredients, please feel free to wave and I too will lift my writhing, wrinkled club of a hand up and bid you a hello.  Who knows, maybe I’ll invite you over for some homemade pasta!

But don’t count on it.

PASTA POMODORO

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, diced
  • 4 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb box or homemade noodles (farfalle, orecchiette or angel hair work best)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Boil noodles in a large pot of salted water with 4 tbsp of olive oil, drain and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over high heat and add garlic until slightly brown and aromatic.  Reduce heat to medium-high and add diced tomatoes, wine, stock and green onions and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the tomatoes have given off their juice.
  3. Add basil and noodles to the skillet and toss until well-mixed, allow to simmer on medium heat for five minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

HOMEMADE NOODLES

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour to start with
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of salt

Directions:

  1. Pour flour into a mound on a clean work surface and make a well in the flour with your fingers.  Be sure to the walls of the well are very high, and about 1/2 thick (refer to above photo).
  2. Crack open two eggs and pour into the well and add salt to eggs.  Whisk the eggs together with a fork until well mixed, minding not to break the walls as you want the egg enclosed until thick enough to mix with the rest of the flour.  Continue to whisk while adding a bit of flour from the top of the walls until the eggs become thickened.
  3. Remove excess flour leaving only enough flour to keep the walls sturdy and the eggs in their confinement.
  4. With the remaining flour, mix in the egg with your hands until the dough is completely mixed and dry enough to roll out, but not so dry that it is crumbly and difficult to work with.
  5. Dust the counter with flour and use your hands to knead the dough by pushing the flour down with your fists and fold over.  Continue doing this for 5 minutes until the dough becomes difficult to knead.
  6. Re-dust the counter and begin to roll out with the rolling pin.  You will notice that when rolling the dough out, it will expand and contract.  This process will take about 10 minutes as it will take the dough about this much time to lose its elasticity and roll out to paper thinness.
  7. Once the dough has been rolled, you can cut out the dough in whatever shape you please.  Place pasta in rapidly boiling, salted water and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

Impromptu Dinner and an Empty Fridge, Chicken Piccata Style – OR – Say “Hell No” to Capers.

The other night, as I’m struggling to finish up my duties at work, I feel my desk vibrate violently and I reach over to pick up my phone.  Splashed across the screen is:

What’s for dinner?

I honestly intend on replying to texts immediately as I receive them, but really, I never do.  This text suffers the same fate as many before it and goes unanswered for the time being.  Sucked into work and desperately trying to finish up, I chug ahead and feel my desk vibrate again about 10 minutes later from the same number as before:

I don’t know what your plans r but I ain’t doin jack tonight

Wednesdays nights are generally reserved for going home, picking up my cat Connor and nuzzling his sometimes usually kitty litter-smelling face forcing myself to go run, and then eating whatever is leftover from my typical previous weekend binge-cooking session while watching Netflix with Brandon.  Without fail, in that order.

Sensing my texting-friend’s subtle hints and realizing how sad my weeknight rituals have become, I called a disappointed Connor to let him know I was breaking our nightly cuddling plans and invited the texter, a lovely lady named Jamie Claire, over for a rare mid-week dinner.

When I get home I realize my fridge is uncharacteristically bare.  BUT!  as Cher Horowitz would say (if she knew the first thing about cooking), if you just get in the kitchen, rearrange some things, then even with a few measly ingredients you can easily pull off a decent meal.

Cher Horowitz is a terrible cook.

I wonder if Kerry will ever invite ME over for some Chicken Piccata...

How right you are, Cher.  For this particular meal I ended up whipping together a fairly basic ensemble of eats: corn on the cob, mashed garlic cauliflower with buttermilk and the star of this post: chicken piccata over brown rice.

The great thing about chicken piccata is that it looks and tastes fancy schmancy, but it’s stupidly easy to make, and almost impossible to ruin.  I dare you to try and ruin this dish, because it can’t be done!

CHICKEN PICCATA


Difficulty: Easy

Time: 45 minutes, start to finish

Serves: Four.  But realistically, two.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breast halves, butterflied and cut in half length-wise
  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons of quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of fresh or squeeze bottle lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of low-sodium chicken broth (or 1 cup if you want to yield more sauce)
  • Flour for dredging
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Parsley (preferably fresh) and lemon slices for garnish
  • Capers (optional)

Directions

  1. In a frying pan over medium heat, combine three tablespoons of oil and two tablespoons of butter and wait until the butter melts.
  2. While your butter and oil are heating up, salt and pepper your now butterflied and halved and then dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and toss them into the now hot oil to fry in two batches.  Make sure you don’t crowd the chicken, otherwise they won’t brown properly.
  3. Once the chicken has browned on one side (about 4-7 minutes), flip over and allow to brown.  Remove first batch to a hot plate and keep them warm.
  4. Add two more tablespoons each of oil and butter and cook remaining pieces of chicken.
  5. Once the chicken has been all cooked and removed to the warming plate, add the lemon juice and chicken broth to the oil/butter leftover and whisk well.  Once it starts to boil, lower the temperature to medium low and  add the chicken back into the sauce pan.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has reduced by 1/4 to 1/3 the original amount.
  6. Remove the chicken to a warm plate and add the last tablespoon of butter to the sauce and whisk vigorously for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Serve immediately by placing chicken over rice, quinoa or noodles, spooning the sauce over the chicken and adding the parsley and lemon wedge garnish.

And that’s it!

Side note: Capers are traditionally added to this dish, but my tastes have yet to evolve enough to appreciate their pungency, so I’ve decided to leave them out.

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And just like that, the impromptu dinner was a success, even with minimal ingredients to work with.  If you’re entertaining, or even just cooking for yourself, it’s important to know how to Macgyver a meal with whatever is in your cabinets and make it work to your advantage.

DID YOU KNOW: Chicken piccata isn’t even Italian by origin.  Seriously!  It is an Italian-inspired dish that originated in the good ol’ US of A and was given an Italian name to make it sound super pretentious.  Some say the term piccata stems from the word piquance, which to describe the flavor of the dish as zesty or pungent, which draws us back to the capers.  To be honest, I really wouldn’t care if it originated in the sewers, because though this dish may deceitfully un-Italian, it is 100% crazy good.

If you try this recipe, or if you have your own special way of preparing this dish, please be sure to let me know in the comments!