Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rice and Chicken with a side of Green Beans!

My mom is known for her "Chicken and Rice" dinners as we called it. When it was my turn to cook and Mom told me it was chicken and rice night, I knew I could use only the chicken, rice, and green beans. So I found ways to change it around and add a little something special to it. If only I had had Rachael Ray's recipe for chicken and leek with rice pilaf! I have perfected my southern green beans so I do not use Rachael's recipe (As you know I botched her recipe and threw out an entire pan of beans!)
Tonight I made a very tender chicken breast with leeks simmered in white wine with my green beans (from the can and cooked with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a pinch of sugar!) and a very delicious and moist rice pilaf.
This is the first time I have ever been able to get Nathan to eat a second helping of rice and want leftovers for lunch the next day! No joke!
He only came in twice to see how long it was going to take (forget that it is called 30 Minute Meals 2!), to which I told him, "not thirty minutes!" He left the room mumbling, "ok so forty-five" which still was not close to the real deal. It took an hour and twenty minutes, about forty-five minutes was spent on the prepping in my small kitchen. Did I mention I have a very small kitchen table, no island, and only one space between my stove and sink for prep?

(Can you see what is wrong with this picture? If you guessed $14.50, then you are correct! I have never spent that much on five chicken breasts ever! Last week I spent less than half that amount on the same brand and same amount)

I had so much fun feeling all chef-like and getting out the prep bowls, karate chopping the chicken breasts, even though Rachael does not say to do this, to make them flatter and of course to make them tender. It works better that way! I do not own a meat tenderizer. And yes, my hands do get sore and sometimes bruise, but it is so much fun!
So after pounding the living daylights out of the already dead chicken breasts, I sing and dance to music in my head (I should really invest in a docking station for my Zune player) while finally beginning on the three dishes. First the green beans, then to saute the shallot in olive oil for the rice and then simmer the chicken in the third pan. I cannot tell you how long it has been since I have had more than two dishes going at once. A LONG TIME!
I am not usually proud of my cooking at all, but tonight I was proud! I got all three dishes finished at the same time! WAHOO! Ok enough celebrating.

So I add the rice to the shallot and oil mixture and saute that while flipping the chicken. I add white wine to the rice and let it evaporate while I pull out the chicken and stir olive oil, pepper, salt, and a pinch of sugar into the bean pot.
Once I got the leeks sauteing, I added chicken broth, water, and thyme to the rice, boiled it and then covered it and set the timer for twenty minutes.
So that is the time Nathan comes in announcing I have been at this for an hour now and I wave him away and tell him it is almost done and that I would get him when it is.
The chicken was added back to the pan with the leeks. "Nestle the chicken in with the leeks" Rachael tells me. I am pretty sure I did it a lot less gracefully than she described it. I dropped them in and jumped away to prevent burning. Then added white wine and simmered.
My favorite part came next. When the timer rang, I added lemon zest from an entire lemon and chopped parsley to the rice. It was so fluffy, smelled like nothing I have had before, and not at all gummy or sticky! And I was using a Calphalon stainless steel pot! It did not stick to the pot.

My favorite line from tonight was when I scolded Nathan (oh yes I did!) for ruining the chicken when I found him adding red pepper flakes on top as I turned to the stove to serve myself. "I am not ruining it, I am enhancing the flavor!" I did finally convince him to try the leeks and he did enjoy them. He also added red pepper flakes to his rice and tried adding them to my chicken as well, "you have to try it!" My mouth was on fire and I spat incoherent phrases (don't worry, no cursing ever comes from my tongue) and downed my entire glass of lemonade before everything returned to normal. He got food and entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised and cannot wait for next Wednesday! I will not know what recipe until the day I cook it. I pick it randomly and while sitting in the grocery store parking lot searching for pen, paper, and recipe at the same time.
Until then, hope you enjoyed my adventure as much as I did.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Waterzooi de Poulet

So Rachael Ray has some really great recipes! I cannot stay away from her book. Tonight I had planned on making another one of her thirty minute meals. It never is thirty minutes. Not in my kitchen anyway!
Today I made Waterzooi de Poulet and Rachael's "Southern Green Beans." Waterzooi is basically a white stew or chicken stew made in Germany. It has leeks, potatoes, chicken, herb bouquet, heavy cream, chicken stock, and carrots. It is meant to be served with a baguette or dinner roll for dipping. I had some not too long ago at FATZ and had been excited to find out that Rachael had a recipe. This was my long and exciting journey to my new favorite stew!
As soon as my shoes came off, I began preparing the leeks just like she suggested and it was beautiful! After that I rinsed and patted them dry and set aside while I peeled and diced both the potatoes and the carrots. Easy!

Butter was melted in the pot, veggies added, and then things started to go awry! I realized how much two leeks, two carrots, and two potatoes made a lot in my pot. I still had 6 Cups of broth, four 8oz chicken breasts, and 1C of cream + egg yolk to be added. I stared at my pot hard and long and wondered how much my veggies would shrink down from sauteing. After the five allotted sauteing minutes I got angry and shouted,"I'm doomed! STUPID POT!" You must know that around here, when I say "stupid" I am really really upset and about something and it usually is when I am in the kitchen cooking and feeling like things are not going well for me.
The pot I was using is a very nice Calphalon stainless steel and the largest one I own since ruining my Calphalon stock pot/veggie steamer base pot last year. It is a 3.5 quart pot.

This just couldn't be happening! was all I kept thinking, all the while calling the pot stupid and letting out enraged moans/grunts and stirring the veggies some more before adding the chicken stock, which only proved my fears that my pot was too small. With the stock added, it could not simmer covered. It could simmer, just not covered.

I went to Nathan pouting and explained that my pot was too small and then headed back to the kitchen. He followed after me to see. "Dorry, it looks great! What is wrong?"
"I need to add another cup of cream later and all of that chicken has to go in the pot and then poach, covered for TEN MINUTES!" I was talking a little fast and in panicked tones.

Nathan stood there calm and cool and began to work. He took out a cup of broth after he added the whole chicken breasts and proclaimed, "you see how little one cup effects the level of this pot when I remove it? Adding a cup will not make much difference, we will just have to stir carefully." We?

I was still stuck on the fact that poor me did not own a bigger pot and I reminded him of this fact. I have tendency to see things in black and white and not read between lines or think of alternatives or see past the problem to the solution. While I was thinking through routes to get to Wal-Mart and buying a cheap larger pot to get me through this meal, Nathan was helping me come up with a solution that was already there in front of me.

While we let the chicken poach, carefully, in a full to the brim pot with the lid on, he helped me break off the stems of the 1 1/4 lb of green beans for the side dish.
He didn't stay for long and went to take a shower while I cooled down and heated up the beans in a pan with water, washed dishes, and cleared off the table for the next round of prep for the waterlooi. Nathan returned. Whether it was with hopes of it being done or to help, I'm not sure. I was not done and it was nearly 6:30.

"I'm sorry!" I whispered to him as he peered into the pot.
"Nathan, I really do not think a cup of cream will fit, do you see how high it is already! AND you have to stir it constantly and let it THICKEN, which means it will GROW! " The chicken looked done so he wanted to continue with the entree.
"It will work. You have to chop the chicken now don't you?" The chicken had indeed poached ten minutes by now.
I consulted the book for the umpteenth time to find him to be correct. And he hadn't read it at all at this point! I pulled out the chicken, again working myself into a frenzy, and started chopping while Nathan whisked the heavy cream with the egg yolk and added broth to the cream. He added that to the waterzooi while I continued chopping. "It says here to stirr the waterzooi constantly for two to three minutes, I think it has been two to three minutes."

I handed him the chicken all chopped and ready in a large bowl while I went back to the beans that Nathan so graciously strained for me. I added bacon and let it grease up before adding beans back into the pan and stirring.

The most memorable line from tonight was then, while I was washing a few dishes to make room for the last stretch of my marathon, when Nathan let out what he was thinking and obviously holding back,
"This looks all yellowed and there is green in the pot! I really do not think this is my thing, but I will try it!" I married a picky eater, but have forgiven him a long time ago! I told him it would be OK not to like it, "I have never made it before so it may taste awful, I don't know!" While I finished the beans Nathan set up the coffee table and put the rental movie in the BluRay

After saying a blessing, we ate and hit play. I loved the stew! It tasted fantastic! The kaiser roll was the best thing to dip in it and the leeks made it heavenly! Nathan got a second helping and brought in the green beans which I was sure still was crunchy and not at all finished, plus it smelled very much like the red wine vinegar had attacked it or something. I was right. It was crunchy and the vinegar was overwhelming it! It was TERRIBLE. I only had one bite, Nathan had one bean. We threw the pot out.

The movie was great, clean, and funny too! We watched The Big Year with Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin. I have never seen Jack Black play in a comedy where he toned it down some and wasn't all over the place and acting like he had way too many cups of coffee, or something! It was by far the cleanest movie I had seen all three of them play actually.
The meal was distracting to me. I did not pay attention to the first five minutes of the movie for the delicious Waterzooi de Poulet.

The best parts of tonight? Nathan loved it! I look forward to my next experiment and wonder if I should try one more Rachael Ray or pull out my World's Best Recipes or Joy of Cooking. I hope to own a bigger pot and hang two shelves to make more room for prep work for next time!