BLT Chicken Pasta

Holy cow, summer is going by so quickly!  I can’t believe it is mid-July.  Back to school specials abound and I can’t help but feeling a little sad that summer is almost over.  But then I remember that here in the “northern South,” summer continues well into September (I just love that Southern Living magazine calls KC part of the South – it gives me lots of excuses to make the Southern food I adore!).  Tomato season started early and I have lots of plans for the jeweled orbs.  The farmers markets are overflowing and I’d better get while the getting is good before the impact of this draught starts to catch up with the grocery stores and markets.

I must admit to a bit of laziness and a severe lack of creativity when it comes to cooking this summer.  Maybe that is due to the roller coaster ride I’ve been on this past year.  I think the other part of it is that I don’t have a garden for the second year in a row.  I have nothing going crazy in my backyard, demanding I dream up new and exciting ways to prepare it.  A friend brought over some fresh jalapenos from her garden and I smiled, recalling the numerous recipes I searched and dreamed up to use our plethora of peppers.  A girl can only eat so many jalapeno poppers…

The other aspect of my noticeable absence has been that we have just been so busy!  Last summer flew by in an instant between Ben starting his job, selling our house, making the official move to KC, and then, the nasty C-word.  This summer, we’ve welcomed many friends into our home, traveled to see friends and family, and bummed about town with lazy days at the pool, baseball games, happy hours and more.  One such evening took us to Shakespeare at the Park where we packed a few bottles of wine and a picnic and laughed at the whimsy of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Midsummer…

One of the dishes I prepared for our picnic left me with lots of delicious spinach dip left over.  Given its consistency, I felt that it would be better served in another dish versus on its own, scooped with chips or crackers.  Laziness prevailed yet again, so I opted for ease, convenience and rotisserie chicken, a girl’s best friend.  The creamy sauce and spinach got me thinking of an alternate BLT and then I couldn’t help but tinker.  I liked this dish served warm, but it’s likely pretty tasty chilled too and perfect for a picnic or Midsummer Night’s Dream.

BLT Chicken Pasta

recipe:  jb’s pour house with assistance from Food & Wine

 

1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded

5 slices bacon

1/3 c. sliced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 box pasta (any shape), cooked according to package directions

1 c. heavy cream

1 8 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of excess moisture

1 pkg. Philadelphia cooking creme, plain

1 lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

2 large tomatoes, diced

 

Place bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Saute until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add onion to pan and saute until translucent and starting to brown, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds and remove from heat.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, boil the cream until reduced by half.  Keep a close eye on this as you don’t want to allow the cream to boil over.  Add the dry spinach and stir to incorporate.  Add the cooking creme and stir until melted.  Add the juice of half of a lemon.  Add half of the chicken, reserving the remainder for another use.  Add pasta, bacon, onion mixture and tomatoes.  Mix well to incorporate.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Can easily be doubled.

 

Enjoy!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2012 jb’s pour house

southern mac & cheese

I love cheese.  It is really that simple.  I love it in all forms but I especially cannot resist it when it is melted.  There’s something so addicting about the warm gooey goodness that is melted cheese.  It’s why I love nachos and pizza, brie en croute and fondue and everything in between.  You can dress it up in heels or laze around comfortably with it in sweatpants.  Melted cheese is equal opportunity, people.

 So when I was flying home from a recent business trip and pulled out one of the many (many = eight) cooking magazines I had brought along for the journey and saw the March issue of bon appétit emblazoned with a bright red crock filled with mac and cheese, I knew I could not resist.  As I stared at the longest string of cheese trailing oh-so-drool-inducingly from a noodle pierced by a fork, I had to resist my temptation.  It’s not likely that the flight attendant would be able to bring me macaroni and cheese, regardless of how many times I pushed the button and asked.  I think that’s a one way ticket to a parachute and a kick out the emergency exit. 

 But I was intrigued.  This wasn’t ordinary macaroni and cheese, although I think I’ve already made my case for why melted cheese of any sort isn’t ordinary.  This was pimento mac and cheese.  My first thoughts led me to Spain with images of chorizo and smoked pimenton filling my head.  There I go drooling again…  But as I read the recipe, I realized this was pimento cheese spread, or Southern pate.  Traditionally a mix of cheddar, mayonnaise, and red bell pepper, pimento cheese has affixed the cracker of many generations of Southerners. 

 While I’m sure the original recipe has its merits, my tastes tend toward the briny, bold flavors of the Lee Brothers’ pimento cheese spread.  You may remember it from a certain burger I raved about in warmer months…  And once it was in my head, there was no turning back.  Melted Muenster and Swiss cheeses swimming with al dente pasta, banana peppers, capers, and green onions – oh, my heart be still.  I couldn’t cook the pasta fast enough.

 

southern mac and cheese

recipe:  jb’s pour house, inspired by bon appétit and the lee brothers

 

1 lb. pasta, cooked according to package directions

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/3 c. flour

6 c. 1% milk

8 oz. Muenster cheese, shredded

8 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ c. roughly chopped banana peppers

¼ c. capers

4 green onions, sliced thinly

½ tsp. crushed red pepper

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1 c. panko

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat.  Whisk in the flour until well blended.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Gradually whisk in the milk until the sauce is smooth.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking frequently, until sauce has thickened.  Reduce heat to medium.  Whisk the cheeses into the sauce until smooth.

Add the cooked pasta, kosher salt, banana peppers, capers, green onions and crushed red pepper to the sauce.  Stir until well combined.  Place into a 13” x 9” baking dish.  Combine melted butter and panko in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over the top of the pasta.  Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden brown.

If you wish, you can portion this and freeze for later consumption.  Before adding panko, section pasta into multiple freezer-safe dishes.  Refrigerate until cool then freeze for up to 2 months.  Thaw in refrigerator, complete step with panko, and bake for about 30 minutes.

To cheese!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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linguini with spicy marinara and boursin meatballs

Things have changed a lot in the past several months.  You might have noticed it has been a bit quiet here.  Well, since we spoke last, I went from this:

to this:

We turned 30.  We put miles on our cars.  A lot of miles.  I learned to live on quickly prepared meals, relying more heavily on a microwave than in any other period of my life, even college.  I missed being home.  I missed cooking.  I was so out of practice that as I prepared to make my first real grocery list in nearly three months, I struggled to find inspiration.  There was so much I wanted to make and eat, yet nothing was coming to mind.  I spent hours lazing in my borrowed recliner as I cycled through cooking site after cooking site, desperately seeking the motivation and the ingredients needed to make a successful grocery list.

After being gifted with a few beautiful 65+ degree days, Mother Nature decided to remind us all it was still February with a bit of a “wintry mix” in store for the early part of the week.  I realized I had missed cooking so many of the winter comfort foods that I love and decided to treat myself to a little splurge and a big plate of home cooking.  Oddly enough, it was one of my quickest meals from my houseguest period that I kept coming back to – a fast spicy marinara sauce.  But this time, with a kitchen in my possession, albeit small, I needed to jazz it up a bit.  Have I ever mentioned that I like Boursin?

And then, there it was.  Inspiration!  A small disk of Boursin later, and we were looking to have some serious meatballs to go with the spicy marinara.  And so I started the sauce.  This has truly become a go-to marinara for me.  I find it perfect with chicken/eggplant parmesan, tasty tossed lightly with pasta, or rich underneath the melted blanket of mozzarella on a homemade pizza.  And with only five ingredients, it should become part of your repetoire as well.  Plus, you get to squeeze tomatoes with your hands.  What’s more fun than that?

The meatballs are equally simple as well.  Ground beef, onion, breadcrumbs, a bit of parsley, garlic, an egg, and oh yes, the Boursin, and you have some serious flavor happening.  As the first meatballs hit the hot oil and the steam from the pan began to rise toward the ceiling, I quickly realized two things.  These meatballs were going to be delicious.  The second?  This tiny apartment kitchen doesn’t stand a chance!

linguini with spicy marinara and boursin meatballs

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (adjust to taste)

1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

kosher salt, to taste

1 1/2 lb. ground beef

1 pkg. Boursin

3 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. breadcrumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Extra virgin olive oil

Linguini, cooked according to package directions

 

Place olive oil and crushed red pepper in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Once you can smell the oil and the red pepper, add juice from tomatoes and start breaking tomatoes into pieces, holding hands over the pan.  Continue until all tomatoes are crushed into pan.  Bring to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue simmering for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree to desired consistency (I like to leave a bit of texture).  Return to low heat and simmer, covered, until ready to use.  About 2 minutes prior to serving, add garlic and season to taste with kosher salt.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ground beef, Boursin, onion, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper, basil and oregano in a medium mixing bowl.  Mix gently until just combined.  Form into meatballs based on your size preference.  For this recipe, I aimed for meatballs that were about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Once all meatballs have been formed, heat about 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan.  Working in batches, sear meatballs on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Repeat until all meatballs have been seared.  Place meatballs on a large baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.

 

Lightly toss cooked linguini with about half of the sauce.  Place pasta on individual serving plates and top with meatballs.  Lightly spoon about 1/2 Tbsp. sauce over each meatball.  Serve immediately.

 

Welcome back!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto

“Ode to Sweet Corn,” Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

 

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take something expected or ordinary and to turn it on its side.  I like funky.  I like unique.  I like different.  I love to reimagine and refresh dishes that are tried and true.  But I like to do so in a way that is still approachable for many people.  I am interested in the foams, molecular gastronomy and avant garde presentations of such people like Wylie Dufresne and Grant Achatz, but I know that style of cooking doesn’t have universal appeal across this great land.  And I know that for most people, the more comfortable you are with the general idea or ingredients, the more likely you are to approach a dish with an open mind and a willing fork.

So when I stumbled across a recipe for a fresh corn pesto, I was intrigued.  This was right up my alley.  Basil pesto has worked its way into our culinary vernacular and isn’t something that is too foreign/out there for most people.  A fresh, summery combination of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmiggiano Reggiano and olive oil, pesto has become a go-to condiment for dressing pasta, basting chicken, or adding zip to dressings and marinades.  And it is easy.  Throw everything in a blender or food processor and viola!  Instant sauce. 

Now I’m no stranger to turning pesto on its side.  In summers past, I’ve been known to whip up a variety of not-so-standard pestos including chive, lemon-parsley, cilantro, walnut-watercress – the list could go on and on.  But I’d never attempted to make a pesto with something that could stand alone, like sweet corn.  I was up for the experiment.  I happily swung through my Italian grocer on the way home from work and picked up some tagliatelle and headed toward my nearby sweet corn stand.

Think of this as summer carbonara, minus the eggs.  You start by frying up some bacon (bonus!) and sautéing the corn kernels in the reserved drippings (double bonus!).  Never a bad way to go, my friends…  Once the sweet kernels are lightly sautéed, into the food processor they go with the requisite pine nuts, Parmiggiano Reggiano, and olive oil.  To me, most commercial pestos are too oily.  I don’t like opening a container and seeing the Gulf of Mexico, oops, an oil slick, on top of my pesto.  My rule of thumb with oils is always this – disregard the volume specified by the recipe.  Add as much as you like for your own personal preference.  In this case, I added just enough to move the pesto along in my food processor while still leaving a little texture.  The resulting sauce was thick and creamy. 

Back to the pan it went, where I added reserved corn kernels for extra texture.  It is important to reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water.  This normal throw-away provides a nice starchy way to thin out the sauce.  The recipe states 1 ½ cups, but I found I was happy with the results with only 1 cup.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of your pan too – nothin’ says lovin’ like bacon drippings on the bottom of a pan.  Into the sauce went the cooked tagliatelle, the reserved bacon, and the fresh basil.  Think of this as summer comfort on a plate. 

tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto

recipe:  adapted from Bon Appetit

 

4 bacon slices, cut into ½” pieces

6 ears of corn, kernels removed

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt

¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ c. finely grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

1/3 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted

Extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. tagliatelle

½ c. basil, finely chopped

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside.  If necessary/desired, pour off all but 1 Tbsp. bacon drippings.  Add corn and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic, salt and pepper.  Toss for about 30 seconds.  Transfer about 1 ½ c. corn kernels to a bowl, set aside.  Place remaining corn in a food processor.  Add pine nuts and Parmiggiano Reggiano.  With motor running, slowly stream in olive oil until desired consistency has been reached.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, reserving cooking water.  Return pesto to skillet.  Add reserved cooking water until sauce reaches desired consistency (again, I used about 1 c.), scraping the bottom of pan to remove any drippings.  Add pasta, reserved bacon, reserved corn, and ¾ basil to the pan.  Toss thoroughly to coat and season to taste.  Place about 1 ½ c. pasta in each serving bowl.  Top with remaining basil and serve warm.

Serves 4.

Here’s to summer comfort (and bacon!)

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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