Tuesday, May 29, 2012

cast iron fried chicken breast

My mind is on vacation.

My physical self was on vacation, along with my mind, for the last four days. In less than 48 hours, me myself and I will be on vacation again for another five days. Do you know how hard it is to concentrate for two whole days?

Blah blah blah, some really clever segue (see? Vacation mode)

I love fried chicken (and love to eat it when I'm on vacation from my diet healthy lifestyle? Bam! Segue), but sometimes the joy of eating super fried goodness doesn't last much after finishing the meal. This chicken is dusted in a light coating of seasoned flour, and shallow-fried in a cast iron for maximum crispy awesomeness. Serve with some muy cruijente oven fries and you can almost pretend you're at Popeye's. Almost.

Cast Iron Fried Chicken Breast

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
oil for frying

Slice chicken breasts in half lengthwise, or lightly pound each so they're of equal thickness all the way across. This will be important for cook time. Mix together dry ingredients in a shallow bowl and dredge chicken so it's fully coated. Heat oil (I used canola) until it bubbles when you throw a pinch of flour in (if you have a thermometer it should be around 375*). Carefully place chicken in the pan and fry until fully cooked, 5-10 minutes on each side (depending on thickness).

Friday, May 18, 2012

will bake for love! ro's bridal shower: may 12, 2012

My friend Rochelle is pretty much one of the happiest, bubbliest people you'll ever meet. She loves everyone within about .3 seconds of meeting them, never has a bad word to say about anyone, and wears pink with every.single.outfit. Just think Elle Woods - she's even got the chihuahuas she brings everywhere! So when she got engaged last December, it was only fitting that she decided her theme colors would be the hottest of pink and the neonest of orange.

When my baking obsession hadn't quite subsided (as it generally does) by the end of Winter, I talked to her matron of honor Monica (also a good friend of mine) about making the cake for the bridal shower, whenever that would be. Well, I'm happy to report that despite all of us being very easily-amused-and-oh-look-something-shiny! types of people, I actually followed through with the cake! I mean seriously, what better way to spend your Friday night than baking and icing a pink and orange cake?

Monica and I got together for a test cake run on Monday, back when I was planning on doing a cake with alternating layers of orange and pink dyed vanilla cake, back before I actually asked the bride whether she preferred chocolate or vanilla. Before Monica came over Monday night, I found out Rochelle preferred chocolate, which meant no coloring the cake. It also meant there was no need for a test cake, since I knew how the chocolate cake would turn out (I have a go-to recipe). Basically, we baked for the hell of it and ate entirely too much batter, ending the night on a super sugar high. It just wouldn't be a fun night without some sort of adventure (see: the dried glue hands colored and stuck to a piece of construction paper up on our fridge that I have from one of our fun nights um, five years ago. When I was in my 20's. You should see the looks I get when I tell people that no, these were not made by my five year old cousin).

The test cake looked absolutely nothing like what I had planned for the actual cake, but it was a great excuse to have a friend over and eat cake at 11pm on a weeknight way to test out my icing making and coloring skills, and figure out which piping tools I wanted to use for the final product.

As much as my back hurt from obsessively icing and re-icing the cake for roughly three hours the night before the party, I really enjoyed the whole process! Not to toot my own horn or anything (but who are we kidding, I'm not all that modest, at least in type), but I couldn't tell you how many people at the party asked where we bought the cake. The chocolate cake recipe I used is a standby from the book I showed above, and if you're nice to me I might just share it (and the tweaks I made for the final product) with you. But that cake (and the book) comes with a whole other host of stories totally unrelated to this party, so we'll save it for a different day!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

tuesday reviewsday: cashion's eat place

Happy belated Mothers' Day! My family's not into big flashy celebrations, and while we do love brunch the other three members of my nuclear unit would rather play golf when the weather allows, so we opted for dinner to celebrate the wonderfullness that is my mother. 

After debating on where to eat, my parents picked Cashion's Eat Place, in Adams Morgan. My brother and I had never been, but I checked out the site beforehand and it looked right up my alley. Nicer-than-casual-but-not-quite-schmancy American food with a Mediterranean twist. Give me tzatziki any day and I'm a happy girl!

Our server (I believe her name was Katherine) was new but fabulous - very sweet, bubbly and attentive. Our table was near the window, which as you can see from the above picture, was fully open so we could enjoy the outdoors (without risking getting wet if it happened to rain). We started with a trio of olive oils and classic Mediterranean dips, served with their fresh rustic rolls. 

I apparently ordered really well, considering I snagged the last order of my appetizer and dessert. I was totally ok with making everyone around me jealous as I enjoyed my first course of lightly fried ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms (not pictured, because they were so good I forgot). They were somehow decadent but light at the same time, so I could still fully enjoy the rest of my meal. 

For my main course I was between the roasted goat with beans, tzatziki and fresh flatbread, or the halibut cooked in a caper lemon butter sauce served over potato puree with sauteed turnip greens on the side. I went with the halibut to stay on the lighter side, my brother got the goat, we tried each others' dishes, and called it even (although I think I won, as good as the goat was). The halibut was flaky and tender, and the lemony sauce provided just a bit of tang in each bite. The turnip greens were soft and garlicky, the perfect accompaniment to the fish. My mom had the soft shell crabs and my dad had the roast chicken, which, in addition to the two dishes my brother and I ordered, made up the four our waitress listed as the chef's specialties. We couldn't have been happier!

For dessert I ordered an apple-cherry tart with homemade ice cream on top, which was to die for. Since I ordered the last one available, I thought I owed it to all the jealous patrons to finish the dish even though I was starting to burst at the seams (remember the bread? I always forget about the bread). It was the perfect end to the evening. 

As fantastic as fresh regional ingredients are, it was a little odd to me that they were already out of a dish or two by the time we ordered just past 6:30 on an expectantly busy day. We got lucky by ordering right when we did, and could have been disappointed had we waited a few more minutes! I'd call that a minor detail though in the grand scheme of things, considering the rest of the meal was fantastic. If you're looking for somewhere to go for a nice dinner date and/or celebration, I'd highly recommend Cashion's!

Friday, May 11, 2012

homemade sriracha pickles

Pickles are something I've always thought about making, but then I always forget about making. And then I buy a jar, and remember that I was going to try making them. It's all so circular.

I'm not even sure I would qualify this as a recipe, but it's so simple it's not even funny (sidenote: who came up with that phrase? In what situation would it be funny?). 

Sriracha Pickles

1 cucumber, sliced into 1/4-1/2" rounds
1-2 cups white vinegar
1-2 tablespoons sriracha
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
3-4 tablespoons sugar

Throw everything into a jar that fits all the cucumber, and allows the vinegar to cover every slice (hence the range of vinegar - you may need more or less). Let sit in your fridge for a few days. The longer you let them sit, the more pickly they'll taste.

Monday, May 7, 2012

a break from food: survey fun time!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this post...

Since I'm super nosy, it's always fun to read random surveys filled out by other people. I guess it's my turn! I've been tagged by the fabulous Meagan, and after I finish answering the questions I get to ask some of my own to a lucky few.

1.  When you were five years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Hmmm that's a really good question. I probably wanted to be a vet, until I realized that part of the job was sad. I probably never had a solid idea of what I wanted to do, but apparently I was quite introspective...

2.  If you ever had to go to the ER or stay overnight at the hospital, what was it for?
I've never gone to the ER/hospital for myself, if you can believe it! The closest I came was a trip to Urgent Care last year when I had a pretty serious allergic reaction to some antibiotics I had been prescribed, but I was in and out in like 20 minutes. I've stayed overnight in the hospital with other people, though. Six years ago, two people very close to me had major surgeries the same week, at the same hospital (talk about convenient). I spent one or two nights there, instead of traveling back and forth.

3.  What was the best thing that happened to you this week?
Some friends of the Boyfriend and mine came over earlier in the week and we were planning out all the fun things we're going to do over our mini vacation to Florida (for a friend's wedding). I am so super excited for this trip!! It's going to be an absolute blast, and I really adore the people we're going with. It was a ton of fun just chatting about all of it.

A close second would probably be the puppy hugs and kisses I look forward to every Monday when I go to my parents' house from this goober:

4.  What were your best/worst subjects in school and what subjects would you want to learn now?

My best subject was definitely band. That counts, right? It was my absolute favorite class (well, band and orchestra were two classes, so I guess they were my favorite classes), and I was really good. That might be why it was my favorite.

Academically, I was better at math/science. Especially science that involved math, like Chemistry. We had some really awesome times in Chemistry class...Yeah, I'm a nerd.

5.  What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?  What would you have said 10 years ago?
10 years ago I definitely would have said my musical instruments. Now? I have two pieces of framed art in my apartment created by family members. I have a painting in my bedroom that my grandmother painted, and an architectural drawing in the hallway that my dad drew during an internship after college. I just think it's so awesome having art from family members in my possession! Maybe someday I'll commandeer a ceramic vase from my brother...

6.  What is your favorite room in your house, and why?
Does the balcony count? My favorite thing to do on a nice day is sit outside on the balcony with a good book and an iced cold drink (usually water), relaxing and soaking up the sun.

7.  You were just given a yacht, a Derby horse, and a countryside estate. What would you name each of them?
Yacht - Silver Linings
Horse - Rhapsody in Blue
Estate - this one was the hardest! I've been staring at the question for hours, so I may have to get back to you...

8.  When was the last time you did something for the first time?  What was it?
I've been thinking about this for too long, I think that means I need to try more new things! Ummmm last Friday I ordered a beer with dinner and actually finished it, does that count? Also last week I put mint in pasta, which was definitely a first!

9.  What did you like best about your hometown?
There are so many things I love about my hometown! It's got this city-meets-small-town feel to it - not quite a town, but definitely not a city. I love that you can walk from one end to the other, window shopping at all the little boutiques, and that you can get pretty much any type of food you can think of. There's so much variety, and we don't have to go downtown to get it!

10.  What is the first thing you always put in your grocery cart?
Whatever seasonal fruit happens to be at the front of the produce section! Right now it's strawberries and blueberries. I'm a happy camper!

Now that I've answered, I get to be nosy!

Diana's Daily Dish
Running with Needles
The Bumblings of KT Bee
Braise the Roof

1. What made you want to start blogging, and how long have you been at it?
2.  If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?
3. Money aside, what would be your dream job?
4. What are the top 3 things on your bucket list?
5. What's your favorite season?
6. Pants or skirts/dresses?
7. Vanilla or Chocolate?
8. You're having people over for a dinner party. For your bedroom, do you:
a) shut the door - it's your private space and no one needs to see it!
b) shove everything under the bed/in the closet
c) spend the afternoon cleaning it properly
d) are you kidding? It's perfectly clean all the time!
9. What are staples in your pantry/fridge?
10. Who's your favorite band/group of all time?

Friday, May 4, 2012

slow baked mustard pork chops with sauteed leek and mint pasta

It all started here.

I, like I can imagine you to be right now, was initially wary.

Mint? In pasta? With onion? Weird.

I have this ramp mustard in the fridge that I bought on a whim from the local farmers market, and we were already thinking pork chops for dinner (I like cooking pork chops with mustard on top). I figured now was as good a time as any to experiment with the interesting mint pasta, since the ramp in the mustard and in the pasta would tie nicely together.

Until I got to the store and realized they didn't have ramps. Drat.

From what I had read in the above post, it sounded like leeks would make a fair substitution. Mildly oniony, kind of like a massive spring onion, I went with it. I reconsidered the mint a few times as I prepared the leek, but in the end I trusted TheKitchn blogger's instincts (as I usually do), threw caution to the wind and mint in the pan.

This was a really good idea on my part.

The mint added a subtle fresh (and minty, duh) flavor, which brightened up the dish. It wasn't overpowering in the slightest, which I was concerned about, and actually paired nicely with the sautéed leek. The cooking method for the pork chop was another Kitchn (can you tell what's in my Reader?) experiment we've been loving, where you sear the frozen chops to get a good crust, and then bake at a super low temperature for a longer time. This has been such a godsend for those of us who frequently forget to take food out of the freezer and subsequently end up with few dinner options involving protein. Seriously, a godsend.

Also, if you're wondering, this pasta is pretty tasty cold for lunch the next day. I know because I'm too lazy to walk to the microwave awesome like that.

Slow Baked Mustard Pork Chops w/ Sautéed Leek and Mint Pasta (serves 2 with leftovers, or up to 4)

For the Pork Chops, from frozen

2 bone-in pork chops
3-4 tablespoons mustard of your choice - I like dijon and spicy grainy varieties

Preheat oven to 200*, and heat a cast iron for 5-10 minutes to get it searing hot. Place pork chops in the pan and leave alone for about five minutes, or at least until you can pick them up without them sticking to the pan. Flip them over when they have a nice sear, and spread mustard on top of each. Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the porkchop. Ours were a little under an inch thick (quick-fry), and they cooked for 25 minutes.

For the Pasta

1/2 box spaghetti
3-4 tablespoons fresh mint, sliced
1 leek, cleaned (they can catch a lot of dirt!) and sliced into rounds (whites and greens)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

After playing pick-up sticks trying to get spaghetti into the pot (because some of us are talented) cook pasta to barely al dente, about 6 minutes for regular spaghetti or a few more for whole wheat. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large pan over medium heat and sautée leeks until they cook down. I had them on medium for about five minutes, then lowered the heat to about medium-low. When the pasta is done, strain and pour into the pan with the leeks. Add most of the cheese (reserving some for serving) and most of the mint (reserving a bit for garnish), toss everything around a bit, and let the flavors come together for another five minutes or so (this is why you don't fully cook the pasta). Try not to eat the pasta out of the pan with the tongs. You may or may not burn your tongue (and I may or may not know from experience).

Serve alongside pork chops.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

tuesday reviewsday: bandolero

Due to uploading difficulties, this tuesday reviewsday is brought to you on Wednesday. I warned you I like being fashionably late, didn't I?

My awesome brother, who I've probably (hopefully) mentioned before, has been working here for the last year or so under Chef Mike Isabella, and totally loving it. You know who else has been totally loving it? Me. The food is always fantastic, so I'm always happy to oblige friends who need a buddy to try the restaurant with. I'm such a good friend.

So when my family heard that Isabella was opening a new restaurant, and running a pop-up just before the official opening, we decided we had to go. My brother is helping with the opening and moving to the new joint full time, so he was already working when we went in. The pop-up offered a five course tasting menu, where you can pick any five dishes from the menu. We ordered margaritas ("our way", to be exact - just one of the 10 they have, and this one will apparently be on tap once they open! Blood orange citrusy goodness) to start, and enjoyed some fresh chips and chicharrones with a trio of homemade dips (salsa roja, guacamole, and sikil pak) while we selected our food. Actually, that's a lie. We did almost no selecting, and left our menu up to the brohim. We trust him. The sikil pak was something I had never had before - a paste made from pumpkin seeds, with some sesame seeds and orange rind mixed in. The more I ate it, the more I wanted more! Kind of like those hint of lime Tostitos chips. 

The trick at places like Isabella's, where all of the dishes are small, is to go with a larger group of people. That way when you do the tasting menu, you can try more things! The whole menu for the pop-up had maybe 25-28 items on it, and they were out of a few, so between four of us we were able to try almost the entire menu. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd go with the short rib molé. Had there been a bone, the meat would have been fall-off-the-bone tender. Seriously guys, it cut like butter. The molé, something I'm not always a fan of, was light enough to not be overpowering, but you definitely got that little hint of chocolate and cinnamon that made the rib taste more like chocolate butter.

Note to self: try making chocolate butter

If I described in detail every dish for you, we'd be here for about a month. Instead, enjoy some pictures! And when Bandolero opens, go. For all our sakes. 

chicken molé enchiladas rojas

seared steak w/ chile sauce

pulled pork tacos


mushroom enchiladas verdes

steak tacos

The short rib molé - doesn't look like much, but trust me on this one.

coconut flan

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

crazy chicken burgers

I'm totally chickened out. Seriously. If I were keeping track, I'd say I ate chicken with over half of my meals in the last week. Yes, I even had it with breakfast one morning. Most days, chicken tenders were the preparation of choice. Most.

One day, while pondering what to do with the last of the 10 or so pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breasts we bought, I was browsing the blog backload in my Reader and I came across one for green chili chicken burgers, and I had an idea (eureka!): feta burgers! This would be the perfect excuse to break out my new grinder attachment on the stand mixer, and also a good excuse to make my less-than-$10-for-6oz homemade version of Cava Grill's crazy feta. Because jalapeños and feta mixed into juicy grilled chicken burgers just.sounded.fantastic. 

You know what else is fantastic? Tasting the feta a billion times. Just to make sure it's perfect.

The grinding process took a little longer than forever, but I think I was just using the wrong blade (the smaller one was attached). Nevermind the fact that I may or may not have been afraid to turn the speed past like, 3, since I didn't have any directions. Lesson learned.

Basically, these are awesome. Chicken breast on its own isn't always the tastiest, but the feta (and the olive oil in the feta) really helps keep it nice and juicy throughout the cooking process. It also lends to crispy seared sides, which is always a plus. At least in my book (clearly the only one that matters). We ate some for dinner, and cooked up the rest to store in the fridge for lunches. If they lasted long enough to freeze, I'd be able to report back on how well they thaw. 

Alas, they were just too good.

Crazy Chicken Burgers (makes 8)

2lbs ground chicken
1/2 bulb garlic
2 jalapenos
8oz feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 425*. Chop off the top of the garlic bulb, so most of the cloves are exposed. On a large sheet of tin foil, arrange garlic and jalapenos in the center. Drizzle olive oil over all of them, and wrap the foil around to create a pouch. Roast for 40-45 minutes. Meanwhile, put feta into a bowl. If you bought it as a brick, crumble it. Drizzle olive oil over feta, and let sit. When the garlic and jalapenos are done, carefully chop jalapenos and smash garlic, then add to the feta. Add lemon and mix everything with a fork. In a large bowl combine half of the feta with the chicken. Form into 8 equal patties and cook in a pan over medium to medium-high heat 4-5 minutes on each side, until patties are fully cooked through. Top with a little of the remaining feta and serve!