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Monday, January 16, 2012

Recipe review from 1/2/12

Dueling crockpots this past week!  One slow cooker was a Thai style Butternut Squash Soup, the other, Spicy Lentils with Poached Eggs.   The interesting thing about crockpots is, you have to plug them in to work, see, otherwise the food doesn't cook.  A little detail, I know.   We forgot to plug in the Squash Soup pot, which while not the end of the world, was a bit annoying since it pushed final assembly back to 930p at night rather than 6p as I intended.  Oh well.

I also broke down and ordered the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson.  Oops, I just realized I've been referring to it incorrectly!  Anyway,  I've been pleased with the dishes I've made and I have several more tagged for later - but I ran out of renewals at the library.  Will have to bring it back, so I ordered it.

Spicy Lentils with Poached Eggs  (Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson)
I would hardly call this one spicy - flavorful, yes; spicy, no.  This turned out more soup-like than I thought it would, so if I were to make it again, I would increase the lentils by a good 1/2 to 1 cups.  The poached egg on top is a very nice addition and shouldn't be skipped.   If you want to bump up the spice-heat, add the chili pepper as recommended, or add a tich of Siracha sauce.  Personally, I think the Siracha sauce would be the way to go.

1 tbsp oil
2 onions finely chopped
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp minced gingerroot (skipped because I forgot to buy it)
1 tps coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cracked black pepper corns (I just used fresh ground - about 10 good turns)
1 cup red lentils (2 cups if want it more stew like and less liquid)
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup coconut milk
1 long green chili, finely chopped (optional - I skipped)

1) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Ad onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes (or until caramelized - my favorite!).  Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and pepper and cook, stirring for about 1 minute.  [Add lentils, tomatoes with juice and vegetable broth and bring to a boil - I added, but did not bring to a boil; I felt this would cook the lentils too quickly in the long run.]  Transfer to slow cooker. 

2) Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3, until lentils are tender and mixture bubbly.  Stir in coconut milk, salt to taste (I skipped the salt) and add chili pepper if using.  Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes more. 

3) When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and top each serving with a poached egg. 

Thai style Butternut Squash Soup (Mpls Star Tribune, Jan....?) 
I've already said it is imperative to turn the slow cooker on if you want anything to cook.  That being said, the squash wasn't quite finished at 3 1/2 hours but since it was pushing 930p on a Sunday night and I just wanted to go to bed, I called it good enough and blended everything up after adding the final ingredients.  A quick cool down outside and it was ready for the fridge.   This was for lunches; sides included a ham sandwich, grapes, apples, and some Frito's/bugle chips. 

This was a nice change to your standard Butt-nut soup.  I did cut back on the fish sauce because the smell of fish sauce is not appealing to me.  I like the taste just fine tho.  This definitely had a sweet/sour combo going, very reminiscent of the Far East.  The addition of cilantro was a nice counter point to all the other flavors, but for my non-cilantro folks it can easily be omitted.  I will probably make this again.

Serves 8.
From Mpls Star Trib, Jan 4, 2012:  This is a take on one of my favorite Thai meals whipped up into a creamy soup. The unusual addition of butter rounds out the flavors and adds a real silkiness to the soup. Adding it at the end of the cook time, along with the brown sugar and fish sauce, keeps it from cooking into caramel. The heat of the soup releases a heady perfume from the cilantro, so don't skip the garnish. This makes an elegant meal paired with a skewer of grilled shrimp and a fresh green salad. At parties I like to serve this in cups before we all sit down to dinner. It frees up your stove and can hold for a while -- and freezes well.

• 1 large (4 lb.) or two small butternut squash, peeled seeded and roughly cubed (8 c.)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 tbsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger root
• 1 tbsp. green or red Thai curry paste
• 4 c. chicken broth
• 1 (13.5 oz.) can regular or light coconut milk
3 tbsp. 2 tbsp fish sauce
• 2 tbsp. brown sugar
• 2 tbsp. butter
• 3 tbsp. chopped cilantro

In the slow cooker toss squash, onion, garlic, ginger and curry paste. Don't worry if the paste is in a clump, it will dissolve as it cooks. Pour the broth and coconut milk over all.

Cover and cook on high 4 hours or low 8 to 10 hours.

Use an immersion blender to purée the soup. Or purée in batches in an electric blender. Note: Hot liquids expand when blended, so be careful not to fill the jar more than halfway and leave the lid ajar, covered with a dishtowel.

Stir in the fish sauce, brown sugar and butter. Soup can keep warm in the slow cooker for up to an hour at this point. Unplug cooker and let stand 15 to 30 minutes before serving (soup will thicken slightly as it cools). Top each serving with cilantro.

Chicken Piccata (Ckng Lght Jan/Feb 2012)
Outstanding!!  I've made several variations and recipes of this over the years and I have to say this one worked for some reason.  Super simple to assemble - highly recommend mise en place.  I saved some time by not banging the heck out of the chicken breasts, but rather just butterflied them.  Slice slice slice and good to go.  Less mess too.  Use the shake-n-bake method of coating the breasts in flour (a recycled gallon zippy is perfect for this, and less mess too).  Use your largest pan to sear the breasts and cook the sauce.   Bright, tangy, delicious.   I served this over some egg noodles because I had some on hand I wanted to use up. 

photo from
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

  • 2 ounces all-purpose flour, divided (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • Preparation

    1. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Place 1 teaspoon flour in a small bowl, and place remaining flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle both sides of chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour in shallow dish; shake off excess.

    2.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

    3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots to pan; sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add wine; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup broth to reserved 1 teaspoon flour; stir until smooth. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth to pan; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half (about 5 minutes). Stir in flour mixture; cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, juice, and capers. Place 1 chicken breast half on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 2 tablespoons sauce. Sprinkle each serving with about 2 teaspoons parsley.

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