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

pecan-crusted pork tenderloin pinwheels with carolina mustard sauce

The hourglass has been flipped.  Suddenly, the grains of sand begin to sift faster and faster into the vial below.  I feel as if I’m grasping for a rope that’s suddenly just out of my reach.  I’m becoming desperate, despondent.  No, it isn’t a bad dream.  It’s fall.

Despite the impression I may have just given you, I don’t dislike fall.  Cool days, crunchy leaves, apples with baking spices, red wine and soul-warming comfort foods are among the many things I enjoy.  It’s just that nagging season that comes on fall’s heels that makes me bemoan summer’s fade into autumn.  It’s why I am digging my heels in, desperately trying to stop the shift from warm sunny days to brisk afternoons filled with falling leaves. 

It is during this time of year that I find myself stumbling across summer recipes that I haven’t had a chance to squeeze in yet among the tomato/zucchini/cucumber/pepper/eggplant galore that is our garden.  Some are old favorites, some are newly bookmarked, and I’m racing against time to try to fit them all in.  Sadly, I won’t get to them all.  It’s why I’m already dreaming of next year’s garden.  Yes, I have spring fever.  And yes, it’s only September.

There was something about this recipe that made me set it aside for a while, marking it as one to try in the early days of fall.  Something about it said “cooler weather.”  It was a recipe I could envision us enjoying as a cool breeze from the open windows dances across our table, and the light from the setting sun (much earlier these days, to my dismay) glimmers against the ruby colored wine in our glasses.  Lucky for me, it turned out just as I envisioned.

Relatively simple to prepare, this is one of those fantastically devious recipes.  As B said, this was something we easily would have enjoyed at restaurant prices and not felt a pang of guilt over having done so.  But again, lucky for us, that wasn’t the case.  Budget friendly to the extreme, this recipe uses inexpensive pork tenderloin and other refrigerator/pantry staples to create a showstopper of a meal once combined.  The pork pinwheels were a symphony of slightly sweet and crunchy toasted pecans, savory and tender pork, and smoky rich bacon.  With a drizzle of tangy Carolina mustard sauce, choruses of “mmmmmmm” and other words of praise soon filled our dinner conversation.

As the sun set on our perfect early fall dinner, I resigned myself to the fact that summer was drawing to a close.  I’ll continue to glean as much from it as I can in the days remaining, but with recipes like this, fall doesn’t look so bad after all.

pecan-crusted pork tenderloin pinwheels with carolina mustard sauce

recipe:  adapted from big bob gibson’s bbq book

 

¾ c. prepared yellow mustard

½ c. honey

¼ c. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. ketchup

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. hot sauce

1 pork tenderloin

6 bacon strips

1 c. finely chopped pecans (recommend using a food processor)

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine yellow mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a small bowl.  Whisk well to combine.  Prepare 24 hours in advance for the best flavor.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Slice pork tenderloin in half lengthwise.  Slice each half lengthwise into three long strips.  Repeat with remaining tenderloin half.  Using a meat tenderizer, lightly pound pork strips to flatten slightly.  Place a strip of bacon on top of each pork tenderloin strip and roll into a pinwheel.  Secure with two long toothpicks or medium-length skewers.

Combine pecans, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Set aside about 1 c. Carolina mustard sauce.  With the remaining sauce, lightly baste pork pinwheels and dredge in pecan mixture.  Set aside and repeat with remaining pinwheels.

Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Cook for 7-8 minutes per side or until the edges of the bacon start to crisp.  Note – my grill runs hot.  I reduced my temperature and paid close attention so as not to burn the pecan crust.  You’ll want to watch this as well.  Remove from the heat and serve with the reserved mustard sauce.

Enjoy the dwindling days of summer!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 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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hominy stew with tomatoes & okra

That song is still playing in my head.  (Note:  It probably doesn’t help that I’ve downloaded it to iTunes and can play it at will.)  My South Carolina longing continues and with it, my desire for Southern food. 

What is it about summer that makes us (ok, maybe just me) think of all of those wonderful Southern treats?  Maybe it is the warm weather, the sunshine, the annual mourning for the months-long summer breaks I no longer enjoy…  To satisfy my cravings, I’ve been researching various fried chicken recipes, whipped up a big pan of cornbread for the hubs to take to work, made the aforementioned key lime pound cake, and now, I think I’ve stumbled upon a recipe that closely mirrors the amazing hominy stew with tomatoes and okra I enjoyed at my sister’s Hilton Head wedding.

Can I tell you how giddy I was for this reception?  Sure, I was quite excited for my sister and my new brother-in-law.  But then I saw the menu.  It read like my own personal lyrics to “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music:  Fried Green Tomatoes, Shrimp Fritters, Country Ham on Sweet Potato Biscuits, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp.  Oh, these are a few of my favorite things!  On to the second verse:  She-Crab Soup, Pulled Pork, Southern Fried Chicken, Baby Back Ribs, Shrimp Jambalaya, Hominy Stew with Tomatoes and Okra, Roasted Potato Salad, Cornbread…  drooling yet?  This was like Thanksgiving, only warmer.  Thank God my bridesmaid dress was A-Line because I had every intention of filling my plate to the brim.   And I did.  And then I didn’t feel so bad.

We were able to wrangle the recipe for the She-Crab soup from the caterer, but weren’t so successful with the stew.  I went on the hunt.  While I had a general idea of what I was after, many recipes I stumbled across had too much going on.  There were gumbos galore with seafood or sausage additions, all of which were a far cry from the vegetarian dish I had enjoyed.  Eventually, I settled on a recipe that seemed to fit the bill, albeit with a few modifications (really though, what recipe is not modified in my house?!).  One of the major changes I made was to shift this from a vegetarian recipe to one that has a wee bit o’ bacon.  If you are bacon averse, you could certainly start with a few tablespoons of canola oil instead.

Stew is a relative term here.  This ain’t your Midwestern, hearty, stick to your bones, chase away the winter chill stew.  The original dish was served as a side, no bowl required.  While mine was thick enough to stand on its own on a plate, I opted to serve this as a main dish over a bowl of rice.  Either way, it is delicious.  There are a lot of textures with the dumpling-like hominy, the soft tomatoes and the okra.  How to describe okra…?  If you’ve never had okra, this is a good introduction as the “silken” textures (often described as slime – I’m here to tell you the truth) combine with the liquid from the tomatoes and aren’t as pronounced as in other recipes.  When looking for recipes, I stumbled across the following saying:

When I was a kid, I ate so much okra I couldn’t keep my socks up.”

That’s all I have to say about that.

 

hominy stew with tomatoes & okra

recipe:  adapted from Threadgill’s Home Cooking 

 1/4 lb. bacon, diced

1 c. diced yellow onion

2 24-oz. cans whole tomatoes, undrained

1/2 lb. frozen cut okra

2 14 oz. cans white hominy

1/2 c. water

2 Tbsp. hot sauce

3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Salt & Pepper to taste

Saute bacon in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Once bacon is nearly crisp, add onions and saute until onions have softened, about 4 minutes.  Using hands, crush tomatoes into large pieces.  Reserve juice.  Add tomatoes, tomato juice, okra, hominy and water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and stew, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes or until okra is tender.  Add hot sauce, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Serve as a side or over hot cooked rice.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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