Baked Garlic Sweet Potatoes

February 28, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I have never understood the need to drown a lovely sweet potato in brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup, marshmallows, etc. I mean, it’s not a dessert, it’s a side dish! Apparently the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission agrees with me, because on their website I found some great recipes for things to do to with a sweet potato besides hiding it under three pounds of sugar.

One of the recipes on that website is this one for Baked Garlic Sweet Potatoes. I made only a few changes to the original recipe – decreasing the yield and altering the preparation.

I served this dish with Orange-Herb-Bacon Roast Chicken.

Baked Garlic Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

1 large sweet potato
1 medium white potato
(You want roughly a 2:1 potato ratio)
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1/4 C. butter (half a stick), at room temperature
2 T. milk
3 T. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. fresh rosemary, snipped
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scrub the potatoes, pierce with a fork, and place on baking sheet. Cut the ends off the garlic but do not peel. Rub the garlic with olive oil, wrap in foil, and place on baking sheet with the potatoes. Place the baking sheet in the oven. The sweet potato will take about an hour to cook; the white potato and the garlic about 30 minutes. You can tell if they are done if they feel soft when squeezed.

(If you are serving this with Orange-Herb-Bacon Chicken, you can cook the potatoes and garlic at the same time, but because the chicken cooks at 325 degrees, adjust the cooking time accordingly.)

Allow the potatoes to cool until you are just able to handle them. Slip them out of their jackets and place the flesh in medium-sized mixing bowl. Pop the garlic cloves out of their peels and add it to the potatoes. Add all of the other ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer until blended and smooth.

Spoon the potato mixture into a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes until golden on top.


Orange-Herb-Bacon Roast Chicken

February 28, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I’ve roasted very few chickens in my lifetime, and the process was usually an umimpressive and not very tasty “throw it in the oven and cook it” type deal. I was in the supermarket on Friday, and whole chickens were on sale for $1.19 pound. I decided there had to be something I could do with that bird, so I tossed it in the basket.

I studied lots and lots (and lots) of roast chicken recipes. I discovered two basic principles for producing a great roast chicken. One, you put a combination of fat (butter or bacon) and seasoning under the skin. Two, you put a combination of (a) products to provide moisture (some kind of fruit – oranges, lemons, apples) and (b) products to provide flavor (onion, garlic, herbs) into the cavity.

Using those two principles and the inspiration of a hundredsome recipes, I concocted this recipe…and was duly impressed! It smells amazing while it is cooking and it’s flavorful and moist.

I served the chicken with Baked Garlic Sweet Potatoes.

Orange-Herb-Bacon Roast Chicken
Serves about 4

One roasting chicken, about 5#

Remove the innards from the chicken and rinse it. Use your fingers to slide under the skin and gently loosen the skin over the chicken breasts. Cut a small slit at the top of each leg and use your fingers to loosen this skin also.

The under-the-skin mixture

In a food processor, combine:
1 slice of thick-sliced raw bacon, diced
1 T. stone ground mustard
1/2 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 T. dried rosemary
1/2 T. dried basil
1/2 T. dried mint
1 tsp. fresh orange zest

Process until it is well-blended and the texture is paste-like. Spread the mixture under the chicken’s skin where you have loosened it, pressing and working it towards the back and so it is evenly over the meat.

The in-the-cavity mixture:

Toss together in a small mixing bowl:
1/2 orange, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 T. dried rosemary
1/2 T. dried basil
1/2 T. dried mint
1 tsp. fresh orange zest
1 T. balsamic vinegar

Stuff the combined mixture into the chicken cavity.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the seasoned chicken in a roasting pan, cover, and place it in the preheated oven. Cook for about 2 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads between 165 and 175 degrees. Uncover for about the last 30-45 minutes. Remove and discard the mixture inside the chicken, slice, and serve.

I didn’t actually measure the orange zest. I zested the peel on the half an orange used in the cavity mixture, and divided it evenly between the under-the-skin mixture and the in-the-cavity mixture. Also, the herbs I used are just suggestions – you could try just about anything! I love tarragon with chicken, but didn’t have any on hand.


Cranberry Banana Bread

February 20, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I was in the mood for a quickbread this morning, and found some bananas and cranberries lurking in the fridge. Hrm, I wondered, how would that taste? I googled, found this recipe…and was totally delighted with the result! I was a good girl and shared…the family and the co-workers enjoyed it also! I made only a few small alternations to the original recipe.

Cranberry Banana Bread
makes 1 loaf

1 C. ripe bananas, smashed (original recipe – 3 bananas)
5 T. salted butter, softened (original recipe – 1/3 C. melted butter)
3/4 C. brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange juice (original recipe – bourbon)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of ginger (I added this)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 C. flour
1 C. fresh cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and juice, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour, mix. Add the cranberries, and stir until just incorporated. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes (original recipe – 1 hour). Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.


Pork Chops with Plums & Cranberries

February 14, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I used two spice blends in this recipe, so it may be difficult to duplicate this exactly, but the idea is to create a spicy grilled pork chop that is topped with a plum & cranberry reduction. The flavor of this dish is fairly intense and rich; a simple green salad is all that you need to add to make a meal. The idea for this dish was inspired by this recipe.

Pork Chops with Plums & Cranberries
(Serves 2)

2 boneless sirloin pork chops

Spice Rub
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Mrs. Dash extra spicy seasoning blend
1/4 tsp. Market District curry spice blend
Pinch of allspice

Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper and then cover with spice rub. Place in preheated grill pan or fry pan and cook over medium heat until browned and cook through. (Time will depend on thickness of the meat.) While the pork chops are cooking prepare the fruit reduction.

Fruit Reduction
1/2 C. orange juice
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 C. dried plums (about 4 – 6 pieces)
2 -3 T. dried cranberries
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and continue to boil until liquid is reduced and syrupy. Serve over pork chops.


Coffee Marinade for Steak II

February 9, 2010

A variation on Coffee Marinade for Steak I.

Coffee Marinade for Steak II
(enough for two 8-ounce steaks)

1 T. olive oil
1/4 C. minced red onion
1 T. minced garlic
1/2 C. water
1/4 C. rum
3 T. instant coffee granules
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1/4 C. red French salad dressing
2 T. molasses
2 T. stone ground mustard
1 T. Tabasco sauce
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. Mrs. Dash extra spicy seasoning blend (or fresh ground black pepper)

In a small saucepan, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cut steaks into bite-size pieces and place into a gallon-sized Ziploc baggie, pour marinade into baggie, and seal shut. Marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Lightly oil a grill pan. Add steak pieces and cook over medium heat until desired doneness. (Five minutes was about medium/medium-rare.)