January 31, 2013

Blood Orange, Fennel and Mache Salad with Chicken Cutlets

Blood Orange Segments
Blood oranges!  So beautiful, so delicious...  currently in season...  Why not celebrate them with this lovely weeknight dinner, a salad with fennel, mache, in a light vinaigrette topped with blood orange segments  and a lovely, easy and quick breaded chicken cutlet?  I first took notice of blood oranges in Italy in 2008, I remember drinking some lovely blood orange juice at a lovely hotel called Romantica Pucci in Italy, here's the link- Romantica Pucci, which is lots of fun and near Civita, which is an amazing little town on a hill that you can only get to by a very narrow path- here's a photo my husband took- I remember he took the picture right before we had a really outstanding meal involving wild boar (cinghiale), yum!  I love it when pictures remind you of a wonderful meal!

Blood Orange, Fennel and Mache Salad
(2-3 servings of salad)
3-4 blood orange segments per person
1 bulb of fennel
2-2 1/2 cups of mache (a variety of salad greens)

Simple Vinaigrette
1 part white wine vinegar
2 parts olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground white pepper

Rinse your fennel, discard the root and the top.  Slice the bulb and then, if needed, cut the rings into smaller pieces:


Place the pieces of fennel in a wide bowl (a wide bowl make it easier to toss the salad and evenly coat with dressing).

Next, rinse your mache and place in a salad spinner, spin until dry.  Add to the fennel in the shallow bowl.

Mache added to the fennel with salt and pepper
Add a pinch of sea salt and grind some freshly ground pepper over the salad greens.

Let's get our chicken ready!

Chicken Cutlets
Chicken cutlets (roughly 3-4 pieces per half chicken breast)
1 beaten egg per 0.5 lb. of chicken (I had about 1.25 lb. of chicken and used 2 beaten eggs)
bread crumbs
sea salt
freshly ground pepper (I used black pepper)

I bought my chicken already cut into chicken cutlets, but you can easily butterfly your chicken breast halves and then cut them into smaller cutlets.  I LOVE chicken this way because it's never dry, you get a lot of great surface area with a nice crust and it's quick quick quick to make!  Plus, you can bread them and then put them in the refrigerator and then cook them the next day and they are great :)  Ok- so get yourself a little bowl and beat your egg(s).

2 eggs, beaten
Next, get a wide plate and mix breadcrumbs (I probably used about 3/4 of a cup give or take), add a pinch or two of sea salt, and be generous with some freshly ground black pepper.  Mix.

Breadcrumbs, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Next, you are going to submerge each piece of chicken in the egg- allowing excess to drip off:

Next, coat with breadcrumbs on both sides:

Coating a chicken cutlet with breadcrumbs
And set it aside- just pile 'em up on a plate!  For extra crunch, coat them again just before frying!

Breaded chicken cutlets
For frying these, I use a combination of canola oil and olive oil- because it's a little over medium heat and if it was just olive oil, after a while it gets a little brown.  The inclusion of the canola lets the oil perform better at a little higher heat.  I fry these in a dutch oven because it conducts heat really well and the higher sides prevent too much spray on my stove!  But, any good skillet is just fine, too!

Heat the oil over medium to medium high heat- my stove is relatively hot, so I am just a touch over medium here.  Fry each piece of chicken for about 2-3 minutes on each side, the coating should be a lovely golden brown.

Frying a chicken cutlet
While the chicken is cooking, dress your salad!  Using the simple salad dressing recipe of one part white wine vinegar, two parts olive oil (or walnut oil), a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground white pepper (which I make in a small mason jar and emulsify very easily by just shaking!  Add a little to the mache and fennel, toss to coat.  Place a serving portion of the mache and fennel on a dinner plate like so:

Assembling the Blood Orange, Fennel and Mache Salad
Next, if you haven't eaten then all already...  Add about 3 blood orange segments:

Blood Orange Segments on Top
Finally, add a chicken cutlet (or two) and enjoy!  Our son really loves this chicken!

Blood Orange, Fennel and Mache Salad with Chicken Cutlets
Enjoy a lovely weeknight dinner with your family!  A quick note- if you think you'll have left over salad, don't dress it, store it in the refrigerator without the dressing on it.  If the salad is stored with dressing on it, the mache gets fairly wilted.  If you aren't going to cook all your chicken right away, re-coat it before you store it and then, when you are ready to eat it, just fry very quickly.  We had our extra chicken the next day and it was not only delicious, but a snap since it was already prepared!

Here's our little girl enjoying lunch recently:

And here's our son about to try out his skis in the back yard telling the dog about it!

Enjoy your dinners together!

How cool is this, you can buy a blood orange tree for your patio!!!  I totally want one!!!

This was recently shared with me- some statistics about what family meals really mean- in terms of how it can positively or negatively impact children.  While my children are still so small, it's given me food for thought.  While my family didn't eat together all the time, we tried to eat together as much as we could- and I think it made a positive impact on my life- knowing that I was cared for and I was being paid attention to.  I hope that this is helpful for you and  your families!  (Courtesy of OnlineClasses.org)

Family Dinners Infographic

January 17, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Beef with Herbes de Provence with Butter Lettuce and Red Pear Salad

Beef with Herbes de Provence with Butter Lettuce and Red Pear
Every year my husband says that his new year's resolution is to eat more salads for dinner.  But here's the reality, his version of salad is very different from mine, he actually doesn't eat that many vegetables.  No cucumbers, no bell peppers, no mushrooms, and no tomatoes, except in sun dried form and in tomato sauces and ketchup, oh, and no onions (raw) either.  Well, when I was growing up and we had salad, pretty much everything that I just described him not eating was what I thought of as 'salad!'  So I said, 'I would make more salad, but you don't seem to like many vegetables?'  His response was so simple, 'I mean I want lettuce.'  Ah.  Lettuce!  Well, I'm in favor of granting the man what he wants, but it also has to be good, so, here it is :)  Sliced top round marinated in herbes de provence and garlic, which you sear very quickly, and the salad is so simple, butter lettuce and red pears (which are currently one of my favorite things) with a vinaigrette made with walnut oil.  So good, you'll forget it's a weeknight ;)

Beef with Herbes de Provence
Marinade (enough for 2-3 pounds of meat, you can save it up to a week in the refrigerator)
1/4 cup dried herbes de provence
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or put through a press
1/4 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 Tbsp sea salt (I use red sea salt)
generous amount freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

0.75 lb. Beef top round, either 0.5" or 1" thick, sliced into 0.5" wide pieces

0.5" thick top round cut into strips
In a small bowl, combine the marinade ingredients.  A good rule of thumb for the amount of pepper is about 1/4 to 1/2 the amount of salt.  Herbes de provence are great, good flavor.  Slice the meat- I ordered these groceries to be delivered to my house and they gave me the wrong thickness of top round, 0.5" instead of 1" thick, but honestly, it was just fine, maybe even better.  Top round is an interesting cut of meat to me- it's on the lean side and can be tough, which is why making it into strips and marinating it is a good idea.  Plus, I feel like it's a good thing to buy and use different cuts of meat!  I think the key to good top round is marinating and having small pieces with a lot of surface area.  I like to marinate my meat in zip lock bags, so you can use your hands on the outside of the bag to move it all around.  So get a big zip lock bag!  So, for 0.75 lb. of meat, I used 3-4 Tbsp of the marinade.  I put the remainder of the marinade in a small mason jar and will use it on chicken later this week.  It will keep for a week.  Let your top round marinate for a few hours if you can.  I do this step while the baby is taking her afternoon nap and my son is playing and can spare me for a little while.

Marinating the top round in a zip lock bag
In the meantime, you can get your salad ready.

Salad with Butter Lettuce, Red Pear and Walnut Oil Dressing
3-3.5 oz. butter lettuce
1 red pear (plus one for you to snack on..)

1 part white wine vinegar
2 parts walnut oil
sea salt
freshly ground white pepper

Keep your salad dressing in a mason jar in the fridge
Pretty much salad dressing is one part acid and two parts oil- sometimes that acid is vinegar, sometimes citrus juice- it is all delicious.  Now I really want a salad with citrus dressing...  Anyhow, I make my salad dressing a lot at a time in a small mason jar and I just put the lid on and shake it to mix it up, then it just goes in the fridge until I am ready to use it.  Walnut oil is nice, it doesn't have much flavor, and it doesn't solidify in the refrigerator, so that's helpful, some oils do and you have to thaw your dressing before you use it- ugh!  (although, if this is you and you're using the stove, just put it on the warm stove and it will speed it up!)  Ok- so make your salad dressing and get your lettuce ready by rinsing it and then either cut it into bite sized pieces (about 2"x1") or just tear it.  Use a salad spinner.  Really?  Yes really, here is why- if your lettuce is wet, the dressing doesn't coat it very well and it's just kind of all wet.  So, spin it, and put it in a wide bowl.  Rinse your beautiful red pear- seriously, I was eating one of these recently and I thought it tasted like the most delicious white wine I'd every tasted, but then I thought, don't we usually say wine has fruit tastes- this was sort of funny to me!  Pear with hints of sauvingnon blanc...  Anyhow, cut the pear into small pieces, I do about 0.25" wide and about 0.5" tall.  Add the pear to the lettuce, add a pinch of sea salt, a few grinds of white pepper, some dressing, and toss!
Delicious red pear

Butter Lettuce and Red Pear Salad
Le Creuset Grill Pan
Now, fire up your stove- I like to use a Le Creuset grill pan for this- one because it is heavy cast iron and distributes heat really, really well, and two, I like the grill marks- their look and flavor!  I spray the pan with Pam grilling spray.  Heat it at medium high heat, then add the meat in batches, with the 0.5" thick top round, I cooked them about 2 minutes on each side, just using a fork to turn them over.  It  took me about 3 batches to cook 0.75 lb. of top round.

To serve, mound the salad on the plate and lay the meat pieces across the top- enjoy!  The extra meat can be put on the table for seconds.  For two adults, we ate 0.75 lb. of top round and the whole salad.  But, I did get another steak that is marinating in the refrigerator with porchetta seasoning (fennel, rosemary, black pepper and salt) and that is tomorrow's dinner.  

Play in the snow!
Wear a ruffly sweater on a lilihan rug!
And smile :)
I hope this gives your weeknight dinners in the new year some inspiration!  We had a chocolate cinnamon bread for dessert.  And, I did make two epiphany cakes that we've been going through...