Chicken and Lentil Curry

I love a good one pot meal. It’s easy on clean up, usually something comforting, and is typically quite adaptable to what you have on hand. I made this for clients earlier this week and was all too happy to enjoy some of the leftovers for lunch myself.

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4 cups chicken, diced
1 TBS olive oil
2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper

1 cup brown lentils
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 15 oz can of coconut milk
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Heat oil over medium to medium high heat in large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Add chicken and spices and let the meat brown for 3-5 minutes. Add lentils, onions, coconut milk, and broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until most of the liquid has absorbed and the lentils are tender. Garnish with fresh cilantro and cashews.

Variations:
I always consider recipes a framework or a methodology more than an exact list of ingredients. For this recipe, there are so many ways you can personalize it. Swap cubed sweet potatoes for the chicken to make it vegetarian and vegan. Substitute quinoa or chickpeas for the lentils. Add any other vegetables hanging out in your fridge – carrots, peppers, or cauliflower. Use fresh ginger and garlic if you prefer. Have fun and make it your own.

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Asparagus Risotto

Risotto is one of those soul comforting dishes. With a little practice, it’s an easy go to recipe. It’s versatile enough to use just about any vegetable or even leftovers I have on hand. And that is pretty much a dinner trifecta. This recipe is more of a method than an exact list of ingredients, though I will give a few guidelines.

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Rice
First, you will need arborio rice. It’s a medium grain rice that is high in starch giving risotto its characteristic creamy texture. Figure about 1/2 cup dry per serving, which is a generous entree portion size. Use about half that if making this as a side dish.

Liquid
Your liquid to rice ratio will be approximately 4:1. So for each cup of dry rice, heat 4 cups of chicken stock or vegetable stock in a separate pot. Bring it to a boil and turn down to a simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Preparation
Traditional:
In a large saute pan, heat 1 TBS butter and 1 TBS olive oil over medium heat. Dice a small onion (approx. 1/2 cup), add to pan, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Next add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes, but do not brown it. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup white wine and stir until it’s almost absorbed. Once the wine is absorbed, start adding your warm stock about 1/2 cup at a time stirring until it’s fully absorbed. Add your liquid a little at a time, stir, stir, stir, wait for it to absorb, and repeat. It can take up to 30 minutes. Finish with a few pats of butter and a big handful or two of parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Add Ins
At this point, you can add just about anything you like. For things like fresh herbs, spinach, pesto, or quick cooking items like peas or crabmeat, just add at the end and let it wilt/cook for 2 to 3 minutes while the last of the liquid is being absorbed. Asparagus does well when blanched and shocked to retain the bright green color. Sauté mushrooms, shrimp, or chicken in a separate pan and fold in at the end. Risotto is also a great way to use up leftover meat or vegetables from a previous meal. If they’re precooked just throw them in at the end and voila.

Here are a few flavor ideas to get you started:
Asparagus and Mushroom
Basil Pesto and Peas
Spinach, Shrimp and Roasted Red Peppers
Parmesan, Leek, and Fresh Thyme
Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Sage

 

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Let’s Talk About Crepes

Crepes are delicate, but pack an impressive culinary punch in their versatility. They can be a little bit intimidating, but we tackle them hands on in my Breakfast for Dinner class. Master these wafer thin little pancakes and you have the base for an elegant breakfast, savory appetizers, vegetable filled side dishes, or a decadent dessert.

Berry Crepes

Crepe recipes can vary in liquid, egg, and flour ratios, but my basic recipe strikes a good balance and can be made both sweet or savory. My personal favorite is sprinkled with vanilla sugar, lemon zest, and a dollop of whipped cream.

 

CREPES

2 eggs
1 ¼ cup milk
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar for savory crepes (2 -3 TBS for sweet crepes)
2 TBS melted butter
1 cup flour

Add ingredients to a blender (flour last), blend to combine, and then let batter rest for 15 minutes. Preheat an 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Brush with additional butter. Pour approximately 3 TBS of batter into the pan and swirl to coat and form a circle. Cook for approximately 40 seconds or until edges barely brown. Flip and cook additional 15 seconds. Remove from pan and stack on plate or wire rack. Repeat until batter is used up. Should make 10-12 crepes. Can refrigerate or freeze between layers of parchment.

The Kitchen Has Moved!

We are finally settled in to our new home and the Wild Abandon Kitchen has all new digs. See the new address over there in the sidebar. I’m just a tad excited over the double oven, 5-burner gas range, new refrigerator (giving me the old one as an extra in the garage now!), and a dishwasher so quiet I can only tell it’s running by the light on the front. The kitchen is getting plenty of action preparing family meals, entertaining with friends, and also preparing meals for delivery. Stay tuned for more info on prepared meals and meal delivery, but for now I can’t wait to share this new space with all of you ready for some cooking classes. Check out the latest classes featuring the fresh taste of summer produce and the bounty of the early fall.

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Fall Flavors

While I love summer, I am excited for the fall flavors just around the bend.  September’s class schedule highlights some of my favorites like butternut squash, apples, caramel, and slow roasted vegetables.  I had a little too much fun planning these new menus, but did keep one summer class favorite in the mix with the Salmon menu.  Adding fish to your weekly repertoire doesn’t need to be intimidating.  I know these two quick and easy preparations will give you the confidence you need.  Go check out the schedule for all that September has to offer.

New Restaurants

It seems as soon as my list of new places to try is whittled down to a reasonable number, I hear about another handful of restaurants opening in Greenville and it just keeps on going.  Such is life in a town with so much great food!  My latest sampling was Greektown Grille in McBee Station.  I did not get to dine in, but when my boss said she was running over for a quick bite after the gym, I asked her to grab a few appetizers for me to sample.  If the rest of the menu is even close to my appetizers, this place is outstanding!  I tried the Dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with lamb and rice topped with a lemon sauce) and of course the Tzatziki and Pita.  The pita was freshly made and very tender and the tzatziki had just the right garlic punch.  My boss had the classic Gyro and said it was delicious.  I’m looking forward to going back for dinner and am excited about another family (read: toddler) friendly restaurant with “real food”.

Other family favorites in our house are Local Taco on Augusta and Groucho’s on Coffee Street.  Both are consistently good and we don’t mind being the loudest table in the place.  Next up on my list of new places to try is American Roadside on McBee.  Anyone other new places that should definitely go on our list?  Family friend or date night only?  Or what are some of favorite places in general?  I always love to get new ideas because even this family eats out from time to time.

Summer Suppers

I married into a Southern family and quickly learned the midday meal is “dinner” and the evening meal is “supper”.  And this morning I taught a class on some of my favorite summer suppers using salmon.  Fish seems to intimidate some folks, so I really hope I’m living up to my motto and teaching how to cook with a little more abandon and a little less worry.  Today we focused on two different techniques that can apply to several different types of fish.

 

Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce

Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce

First up, we pan seared it to get a nice crispy skin. (Thanks to years in restaurant kitchens I have to refrain from referring to crispy skin as “sexy” when in the company of non-restaurant folk.  I get strange looks, but it’s a good description if you ask me!)  Grouper, striped bass, or red snapper are other good choices for pan searing with the skin on.  I know a lot of people will still peel back the skin and leave it on the side, but I would put crispy fish skin up there with perfectly roasted crispy, chicken skin any day.  We served it with haricots verts and an herbed coucous with a lemon dill sauce to pull it all together.  We blanched the green beans ahead of time, but the remaining components – couscous, sauce, and sauteing the vegetables were all prepared in the time it took to cook the fish.

 

Salmon en Papillote

Salmon en Papillote

Next, we worked on a baking technique that would also work well for halibut, grouper, or haddock.  We created parchments packets and filled them with the fish, julienned vegetables, fresh thyme, lemon, white wine, and butter.  All are classic flavor pairings that will allow the fish to shine.  It was done in about 12 minutes and created its own beautiful sauce all in one step.

 

I hope you will put fish on the menu this summer and enjoy some light and easy summer suppers.

Turkey Burgers

I am the first person to admit when I see “Veggie Burger” or “Turkey Burger” or even “Black Bean Burger” on a menu, I think what’s the point?  If I’m craving a burger, I want a classic burger.  Those other alternatives may be good, but it’s rarely what I’m craving.  But just the other week while visiting my parents, Dad made turkey burgers one night and they were so good I really had to eat my words!  I decided to make them for us just the other night and after inhaling his burger, Jason even asked me what exactly did I put in them?  I take that as a good sign.  So here’s the quick run down for a fast weeknight supper:

Saute some finely diced onion, pepper, and mushroom in a little olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper once the mushrooms begin to brown.  Add a little chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, and garlic to taste.

Combine with some ground turkey, form into patties, and cook inside or outside.  I saved time and tossed them in a saute pan while Jason worked late, but throwing them on the grill would be very tasty.  Toast some buns, top with melted cheese, sliced tomato, and avocado.  Serve with some roasted corn and dinner is done.

These stay very moist thanks to the veggies and topping them with avocado is perfection in my book.

July Schedule

I just posted the July Schedule and am ready to get back in my kitchen!

By request July features plenty of seafood and multiple opportunities for the fan favorites like Salmon En Papillote and Shrimp and Grits.  Also I’m introducing a new summer menu featuring citrus marinated London broil, a delicious recipe for all of the zucchini and squash growing in your garden, and the perfect peach pie.

Fresh Fish

Just the other day I was talking to a friend about how some of the best dishes are the ones that don’t call for much embellishment.  Good quality ingredients don’t need many extras.  Last week we catfishhad the opportunity to eat one of those dishes and it was such a fun treat while we spent time enjoying my parents’ new home.  They now live on several acres including a fishing pond.  And as Jason discovered, a very well stocked fishing pond.  The first day he caught a catfish and we made quick work of it.  While I have fileted many fish over the years, I have never actually cleaned one fresh out of the water.  Thankfully Dad stepped in for that part and I got to work cooking it.  With a quick pass through some seasoned flour, then egg wash, and then seasoned cornmeal, I shallow fried it and seasoned with salt just as it came out of the pan.  I have to say it doesn’t get much fresher than cooking it straight from your own pond.  The taste was light, sweet, and fresh.

bassLater that week, Jason squeezed in more time by the pond and came up with nine small pumpkin fish and a few bass.  They were delicate and small, so I opted for a little seasoned flour and straight into a saute pan with butter.  We ate them whole and we can’t wait for our next visit and some more fresh fish.