Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pasta, Greens, and Beans

November 16, 2014

Pasta, Greens, and Beans
Vella Chardonnay

Pasta with Beans, Chard, and Rosemary from Cook's Illustrated, November 2014

I had never heard of greens and beans until I saw this recipe in the November/December 2014 issue of Cook's Illustrated. I thought it would be worth trying, a hearty, one-dish meal with pasta, beans, and greens. It reminds of simple, inexpensive food like red beans and rice. And I am found of beans in various guises and so was happy to try another.

Preparing the meal was easy and took about an hour. I was able to make good use of some of the leftover Parmesan cheese from last week's Sunday dinner. The recipe called for 10 ounces of Swiss chard and I was happy to find that a bundle of Swiss chard from the supermarket weighed just 10 ounces. I did not have the optional Parmesan rind to include with the other ingredients while they simmered. The fresh rosemary came from a container plant in our yard.

We both enjoyed this meal, I don't remember ever having anything like it before. It is like a hearty winter soup or stew, but not really like either of those especially with all of the pasta. Whatever it is, it is a satisfying meal for a cool day. It has a little heat from some red pepper flakes but not too much. With the cheese, greens, beans, and pasta it presents a nice combination of flavors and textures.

As we ate it on Sunday evening, we thought that it might be better as a leftover than fresh, improving over time like a stew or soup. However, this was not the case, as the leftovers seemed to have weaker flavors than the fresh dish, and it bordered on bland.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chicken Parmesan

November 9, 2014

Chicken Parmesan
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 2012 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

Best Chicken Parmesan from Cook's Illustrated, March 2013

I have eaten chicken Parmesan in restaurants where I enjoyed the crispy coating and juicy  chicken, but I have never made it at home. Cook's Illustrated published a recipe in their magazine over a year ago and I finally got around to trying it out. I shouldn't have waited so long.

The meal took only 60-90 minutes to prepare. A simple tomato sauce is made with canned crushed tomatoes as the main ingredient. Making your own sauce this way is easy and produces a much fresher tasting sauce than you get buying a jarred sauce. The recipe made enough sauce for two meals of chicken parmesan plus another as a spaghetti topping

The most expensive ingredients were the three cheeses: mozzarella, fontina, and Parmesan. I bought blocks of all three rather than pre-shredded cheese, and grated them myself: the fontina and mozzarella on a box grater and the Parmesan with a microplane. The leftover cheese did not go to waste. Diane had the mozzarella and fontina in her lunch at work and the Parmesan has been used in several dinners.

We both enjoyed this meal and it is worth having again. It was a little salty but we were unable to identify the source of the salt. The sauce wasn't salty so maybe it was the cheese or the brine? As a leftover ,the chicken was just reheated in the microwave. It wasn't as good as the original as the coating was not as crisp, but it was still good.

Cook's Illustrated has some quicker recipes for chicken Parmesan (such as this streamlined thirty-minute version) that might be worth trying and it's usually worth looking at Food Wishes, too.