Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken with Twice-Baked Potatoes

I won't lie. I love potatoes. I like them mashed, fried, baked, broiled, baked...pretty much anyway. These carb-laden devils are one of my weaknesses (though, I have many). Sometimes I think that if this country were heading into a depression I might be perfectly satisfied with just eating potatoes and cereal. This post actually has 2 recipes. One for chicken and one for potatoes. And while the chicken dish was definitely very good, it pretty much involved no effort on my part. Most of my time was spent working on the potatoes. A lot of work for a side dish, but the end result was definitely worth it.

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken

(recipe adapted from Once Upon a Plate)

2-3 large chicken breasts with skin and bones
8 oz ricotta cheese
2-3 Tbs dried parsley

Twice-Baked Potatoes
(my own recipe)

3-4 large baked potatoes
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 package pancetta

2 cups grated sharp chedder cheese

First things first, the potatoes are going to take about 45-60 min to cook so wash them, wrap them in foil, and place them in the oven at 400°. If you have someone at home who can get them in ahead of time, do it. If not, just sit and relax for about 30 minutes.

Cook the pancetta in a pan at med-hi heat. Pancetta is similar to bacon, but it cooks a lot cleaner (less oil) and has a unique flavor to it. It's a little difficult to tell when it's done, so just realize that it'll cook slightly faster than bacon. Once cooked, set aside for later.

In a bowl mix the ricotta cheese and parsley. Wash chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Stick finger under the skin to slightly loosen it from the meat. Try to keep the skin attached to the muscle along the edges of the chicken breast. Take a spoon and start scooping the ricotta mixture between the chicken breast and skin. You can get the mixture to the end of the chicken breast by massaging it downward from the outside (kind of like the what you would do to get the toothpaste to the end of the tube). Once you get a fairly even generous layer of cheese in there, brush the outside of the chicken breast with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a pan bone side down and bake uncovered at 350° for about 25-30 min until juices run clear and the top of the chicken is slightly browned. At this point, I lowered the temp of my stove and continued baking the potatoes while the chicken cooked. (Note: raw chicken looks awful in photographs, so I don't have any pictures of the process.)

Crumble the pancetta. In a bowl mix yogurt, 1 cup of the grated shredded cheese, and 1-2 handfuls of the pancetta. Take the potatoes out of the oven and check them. I unwrapped the potatoes and, at first, cut a slit in them to check them. Later I found out this was a waste. Just unwrap them and cut them straight in half. Poke with a fork to see if the innards are soft. If not, fold back together with the tin foil and put back in the oven until they are done. Once done, let cool for about 5-10 minutes (enough to be able to handle them). Take a fork and start scraping out the inside of the potato leaving the skin as in tack as possible (I wasn't very good at this). Put all the scraped potato into the bowl and mix thoroughly into the mixture. I try to mash any big chunks, but you don't have to get it perfect. Scoop the mixture back into the potato shells. Be generous. Top with the remaining cheese and pancetta and throw back into the oven for 10-15 minutes. I kept my potatoes in the foil, but folded down the sides for this stage. This helps keep the potato sides together, but also acts to prevent any melting cheese from getting on your oven racks.

Take out the chicken and potatoes and serve as is. Yuuuummmmy!

A couple notes on this recipe: 1) Most people use sour cream for the twice-baked potatoes. I only had yogurt on hand and was great. I don't see any reason to add the extra calories of sour cream. 2) I had leftovers the next day for lunch. I honestly think the potato was even better reheated than it was the day before (but that could have been the fact that I was at work and never have anything really great for lunch at work).

Validation of Goodness: I got the chicken breasts at the Reading Terminal Market and they were HUGE! I only ate half of mine and saved the other half for the next day. I gave Jon the larger one and at the end of the night he had eaten all of his and was picking at the rest of mine!

If you try this one (or any of my recipes) out let me know what you think!

I am officially caught up on posts, for now. We'll see what creations I decide to try next week.

Grilled Pineapple Shrimp Kabobs

It's only been 2 weeks and I'm already falling behind on my food blogs. I have two recipes that I made last week that I will be posting. The first is a grilled shrimp kabob marinated in a terriyaki sauce. It was really, really good. If you don't care for shrimp, I'm sure you can substitute chicken. The key to making this dish taste good is to sear it at a high temperature using either a grill, grill pan, or broiler. I found the base for the recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks food blog. She didn't really provide measurements, so I improvised and am putting the approximate amounts that I used here. The original blogger also served the kabobs plain, but I thought it could use some color so I added some red and green veggies, and served it on rice to make it into a more substantial meal.

Grilled Pineapple Shrimp Kabobs

1 cup terriyaki sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 bunch scallions with white tips diced
2-3 cloves garlic crushed or diced.
1 small can of pineapple chunks.
1 lb raw shrimp
1 red bell pepper
1 zucchini

Pepper to taste

In a bowl mix terriyaki sauce, sugar, scallions, garlic, and about 1/4 cup
of pineapple juice from the can. Add a little pepper to taste. Remove shells and veins from raw shrimp. I buy raw shrimp that has already been cut and deveined to make things easier. Add the shrimp to the marinade and set aside. The original recipe said to marinade for 2 hours or overnight in the fridge. I only marinated it for 30 minutes in the fridge and it was fine. You can use frozen shrimp if you'd like, but make sure you soak the frozen shrimp in water until thawed before placing into the marinade.

While the shrimp is marinating, prep your veggies. I cut the red bell pepper into 1" squares and sliced the zucchini to create 1/4" thick discs.

Assembly time. I started by putting one red pepper square on the skewer and then threading the skewer through the head of the shrimp. Before skewering the tail, grab one of your pineapple chunks and add it on. Then skewer the tail of the shrimp on the other side of the pineapple chunk. This puts the pineapple (and it's juices) snugly underneath the curved portion of the shrimp (see pic). Add another red pepper square to the end and repeat for the next skewer. Because zucchini cooks a lot faster than red peppers, (and they are a perfect canvas for grill marks), I decided to cook them separately and assemble them to the kabobs later.

Cook at high heat until cooked on one side, flip and cook the other side. Using a grill will provide you with the best results, but because I live in an apartment I don't have access to a grill. This really hampers my ability to create perfect little grill marks in my food. I don't know why grill marks make dishes look ultra-tasty, but they do. A grill pan is a great solution to this problem. I recently purchased a cast iron grill pan and love to break it out every chance I get. It was an impulse purchase at Kohl's. I couldn't resist the orange 60-70% off tag. (Does anyone actually ever pay full price at Kohl's?) .

Attach the grilled zucchini (or jus
t serve alongside) and serve immediately over a bed of rice. Delicious!

ne word of caution, the juices on the grill pan caused A LOT of smoke in my apartment and my stove fan doesn't work so well. I opened all the windows, turned on some fans, and crossed my fingers that my neighbors wouldn't come knocking at my door.

Retrospective: The only thing that I would do different is reduce the marinade in a sauce pan and drizzle over the rice before serving. Other than that, it was perfect.

Coming next.... Ricotta stuffed chicken and twice-baked potatoes.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

As promised, here is another pumpkin recipe. Being the weekend, I actually had some time to do some baking, and a friend needed some cupcakes for an event she was having. This gave me the perfect reason to try to make pumpkin cupcakes using a recipe that I found on Taste and Tell. The recipe was fairly easy, and the cupcakes turned out great. To quote a friend of mine who was around to sample the end product, "These are good as h***!". That's a compliment.

So, without further ado...

Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 box spice cake mix
15 oz pumpkin filling/puree
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water

Mix all the ingredients together and fill cupcake tins 3/4 full. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Mine were actually done closer to 15 minutes, so make sure to watch them. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting them.

Cream Cheese Frosting

This is a unique recipe because it is a mix between cream cheese and w
hipping cream. The result is a much lighter, creamier frosting.

1 cup whipping cream
1 8oz package of cream cheese
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

My mom always told me that whipping cream worked better if everything was cold. So, I washed the metal bowl and egg beaters that I had used for the cupcakes and placed them in the freezer. Do this almost immediately after you put the cupcakes into the oven because then it gives them time to get nice and cold. Put the cream cheese in another bowl with brown sugar and vanilla, and set aside for now. Retrieve your bowl and beaters from the freezer, add the whipping cream and beat whip cream until soft peaks are formed. Put the whipping cream bowl into the fridge while you beat the other ingredients.

Without rinsing beaters, mix the cream cheese, vanilla, and brown sugar until smooth. Fold in the whipping cream until well mixed. Put the frosting into the fridge to firm up for frosting.

Once cupcakes are cool...frost away!

My one regret about this recipe is that the cream cheese frosting is pretty domineering compared to the pumpkin cupcake. I piped the frosting on fairly thick, but in retrospect would do a thin 1/8" layer on top so that you can taste more of the cupcake. The person who originally posted this recipe had a great idea and put a single candy corn on each cupcake...very cute.

So, does this satisfy my pumpkin craving? Yes, I'm definitely done with pumpkins for a while.