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Goat Cheese and Onions Part 2

I recently read an article (in Epicurous, I think) about the oft-neglected merits of something certain foodies consider super uncool: boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Unexciting, perhaps, but I’m a firm believer that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are indispensable. See this recipe for chicken and veggie quesadillas by Ree Drummond that has sustained the two of us for at least a week’s worth of dinners… a sprinkle of taco seasoning lends the diced chicken a bit of kick, and you can prepare it ahead, along with the sautéed onions and bell peppers, and throw together a quesadilla whenever you’re feeling hungry. Then, mix the extra diced chicken with romaine lettuce, shredded Mexican cheese, tomato slices, and this rich, basil and scallion-loaded green goddess dressing, and you’ve got lunch. Or (I digress) the dressing is so rich you may just want a plateful of lettuce and tomato, like so:

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But anyway. Boneless skinless chicken breasts. Yes.

That being said, I’m also aboard the bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh trend. Which brings me to goat cheese and onions. Here’s how I adapted Ina Garten’s Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato a few weeks ago:

  • Chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. In my experience, thigh meat tends to be fattier and more succulent than breast meat, and I feel I can justify the treat because thighs are smaller than breasts.
  • Her recipe calls for herbed goat cheese – I had plain in my fridge, from my aforementioned experiment with goat cheese caramelized onion bruschetta, so I added a fresh basil leaf under the skin instead. (If you have an herb garden, you could always mash in your own fresh herbs and an improvise your own herbed goat cheese. Right now my chives are out of control, so maybe I should have done that. Aw shucks, I suppose I’ll have to buy another log of goat cheese and start all over again… 🙂 )
  • I also did not have sun-dried tomatoes on hand, so I put a roasted red pepper (that came in a jar) under the skin. (Another reason to buy these jarred, roasted red peppers is that they layer sweetly on your standard, homemade grilled cheese sandwich and add nice, vinegary notes to salads. If you happen to have fresh bell peppers lying around, plus olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and a little fresh garlic (optional), you can make your own. See another, goat-cheese centric Ina Garten recipe (this one I haven’t made) for more specific instructions on how to pickle peppers.

Onions, you say?

I’ve made this Ina Garten recipe for herb roasted onions a few times, say, if I’m cooking meat and I have no vegetables or salad ingredients on hand to go with. It’s something of a revelation to me that onions are a vegetable that can be roasted like anything else, and stand on their own. Quarter and separate a few onions – mix them with olive oil, mustard, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper – roast them on a sheet pan, and voila: a cheap and surprisingly delicious side dish. (This time I made the recipe with yellow onions only, because that’s what I had – but I think adding a red onion to the mix is really worth it. Adds extra sweetness).

I rounded out the roasted chicken and roasted onions with some roasted carrots – really simple — olive oil, salt and pepper, and in my case, copious amounts of fresh dill.

Here’s how dinner ended up (I forgot to mention that crisp (cheap) white wine is always an important factor in the goat cheese and onion equation, but perhaps that just goes unsaid…)

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To goat cheese, to onions, to alfresco dining, to life, to life, l’chaim….

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Comfort Food

jmv Magic Mushrooms? NOT CC BY 2.0There is something innately comforting about mushrooms. The comfort factor doubles when you add heavy cream and butter and white wine… am I right? Last Sunday I took the afternoon to chop and sweat and simmer mushrooms to my heart’s content, and then I poured some tender loving care onto a pot of herbed basmati rice — I can’t decide what I enjoyed more, the eating or the cooking.

I’ve been suffering from blogger’s block this past week. My attempts to embellish the sautéing of mushrooms with a nugget of spiritual wisdom or worldly advice have left me dry and desperate. Just being honest. It turns out, though, that cooking is quite the complimentary activity to writer’s block — working with your hands, it seems, gives your brain a rest. If you’re good at following directions, and you know how to spot a well-written recipe, things generally turn out as planned.

Not like some other things I’ve had on my mind lately. I’ve been reading (and writing) about education reform, how many of the same, stale reforms are recycled throughout the centuries, repeatedly putting teachers at the center of controversy. Also, I’ve been busy turning a year older, wondering why I’m not “farther” in life, why certain accomplishments haven’t landed in my lap yet, you know, run-of-the-mill ruminations. (However, I do feel loved, thanks to all your calls and texts). And I’ve dug deep into Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch. The book is so full — of characters and settings and language — having already bounced from the sweet, romantic New York City life Theo shares with his single mother to the surreal interior of a bombed out art museum, to the lush, moneyed apartment of Theo’s friend Andy to the subdued, textured back room of an antiques dealer to the bright squalor of Las Vegas, I can’t predict where the plot will turn next.

So I embrace the comforting predictability of cooking, the way a pot of food on the stove sets a scene of its own. Enjoy 🙂

Creamed Mushrooms
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

1 pound of button mushrooms
4-5 tablespoons of butter
2 shallots, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
kosher salt and black pepper
thick slices of bread, buttered and toasted (optional)

Tools

Paper towels
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Mixing bowls
Liquid measuring cups
Large pot
Wooden spoon

  • With moist paper towels, wipe the mushrooms clean of dirt.
  • Slice the mushrooms and chops the slices into 1/4-inch pieces. This takes a while — enjoy some chopping zen 🙂
  • Chop the shallots and place in a bowl. Measure out the wine and the heavy cream in advance, for some mise en place — why not.
  • In a large pot, melt 4 tablespoons of butter on low heat and add the chopped shallots.
  • Sauté the shallots until they’re soft and limp over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, and possibly another tablespoon of butter if they seem dry. Cook until the mushrooms start to soften, stirring occasionally, over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Add the wine, and cover, cooking the shrooms about 5 minutes more.
  • Uncover the pot and continue cooking for a few minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add the heavy cream and cook a bit longer, allowing the cream to thicken somewhat. (1/2 cup was too much for me; I’d start by adding 1/4 cup and add  little more to achieve a thick, creamy consistency without leftover liquid).
  • Serve on top of buttered toast or on its own, with rice.

Herbed Basmati Rice
Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

2 cups basmati rice
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced dill
2 pinches black pepper

Tools

Measuring cups & spoons
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Mixing bowls
Large saucepan
Wooden spoon
Fork

  • Measure out the ingredients and mince the herbs.
  • Place the rice, water, salt, and butter in a large saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil, give everything a quick stir, reduce the heat to low and simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes. Watch to see that the mixture doesn’t boil over; you may have to temporarily remove it from the heat if the liquid bubbles up.
  • Once fifteen minutes have passed, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 5 more minutes.
  • Add the herbs and pepper and fluff it with a fork.

 

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