Thursday, July 26, 2012

Almost Fancy Chicken

Hello world! I’m back with another food-related blog post!!

Tuesday night I made almond-crusted chicken with cherry/red wine reduction sauce"... it sounds super fancy, but ireally wasn't hard.  Plus, it will be even easier to make next time now that I've done it once.

For those of you that don’t know what a “reduction sauce” is, I will explain: when liquid is simmered for a longer period of time it is “reduced” and made thicker and the flavors of what you are cooking intensify. See, isn’t that easy? You can make a “reduction sauce” out of almost anything!

So here is my version of…

Almond-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Cherry/Red Wine Reduction Sauce
Adapted from:


3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup whole, unsalted almonds, ground (or if you don’t have a blender, very finely chopped)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (4-ounce) log garlic & herb goat cheese (I ended up only using half of it)
1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, for frying

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups of  cherries, pitted and quartered (approx. 30-40
 whole cherries)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Prep for the sauce: cut the cherries in half, take out the pit, then cut them in half again (basically cutting them in fourths).  Cut up the onion and then set both the cherries and onion aside for later.

My beautiful cherries, before I cut them into fourths...

2. Cut up the chicken the way that you want it.  I cut the chicken breasts in half keeping the thicker half for stuffing and the thinner half for plain breading. You could also cut them into smaller, nugget-sized pieces if you don't want to stuff them with goat cheese.

3. Set up the breading and dredging ingredients. Get 3 bowls: for the flour, one for the  eggs, and one for your breadcrumb-almond mixture. 

4. Mix the breadcrumbs and ground almonds together in their bowl and season with salt and pepper. Then place the flour in its bowl, and finally, the eggs in their bowl.

Tip: to test if there is enough salt and pepper in the breadcrumb mixture, try dipping in a moist carrot stick (or something equivalent) into the breadcrumb/almond mixture and tasting it. If you can taste the salt and pepper, then there is enough – you’ll know when it’s right. DO NOT do this if you have already put the raw chicken into the bowl, you will rick getting sick. yuck!

5. Cut an incision into the chicken breast, spread 1 ounce of goat cheese and then close it up.
*Stuffing chicken is actually not very difficult.  (I made 1/2 of my chicken stuffed and 1/2 not stuffed (only because I wasn't sure if Mr. Modern would like the goat cheese).  I make the stuffing incision into the middle of the breast, leaving a 1/4-inch on top and bottom uncut so it won’t fall apart. (see pictures below)

6. Continue until all of the chicken pieces are stuffed.
**I only stuffed half of my chicken, the other 1/2 I pounded with a meat mallet so it would be thinner (see picture).

7. Cover the chicken breast with flour.

8. Then dip it into the egg and cover it completely. Allow any excess egg to drip off.

8. Then put the breast into the breadcrumb-almond mixture covering it completely and pressing all that delicious, nutty flavor in! Set the stuffed/breaded chicken breast into a baking dish and repeat the process with the remaining chicken breasts.

Tip: I recommend setting up your chicken,"dipping stations", and plate in the order you will be using them (see picture below).  Also, try using one hand for putting the chicken into the dry ingredients and the other hand for dipping it into the egg.  This way you don’t get super sticky hands! 

8. Once the breasts are all stuffed and breaded, place them into the refrigerator.

9. Immediately begin the sauce: Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent (2-3 min). Add the wine, honey, and cherries, and cook for 20-25 min.

The cherry sauce at the beginning, before it reduced.

10. Once the cherry sauce has started to cook, take out the chicken and preheat the oven to 375° F. Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick sauté pan; working in small batches so that the chicken pieces fit easily in one layer, fry them, until they are golden brown on each side (2-3 min).  

11. At this point your cherry sauce may be done – you will know it is done when the mixture is thick and syrupy with an approximate equal ratio of cherries to liquid. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the butter, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until it’s time to serve.

Reduced cherry sauce

12. When the chicken is golden brown on both sides, place them back in the baking dish and put them into the oven; bake until cooked through (13-15 min).

***Because I had two different thicknesses of chicken (one stuffed, one pounded thin), I pan-fried the stuffed chicken first and put it in the oven to cook, then I finished frying the pounded chicken and put it in the oven with the rest of the chicken.  Doing it in this order allowed the thicker chicken to cook in the oven for just a little longer, so they could both be done cooking at the same time (theoretically!).  Also, if you find that your chicken isn't cooked yet, but you don't want the outside to get any darker - put tin foil over the pan.


****I usually have a few red wine bottles in my kitchen, I tried two different ones and decided to go with Trader Joe's Merlot over a red wine mix from Snap Dragon only because I thought the flavor complimented the cherries better. When the sauce is reduced, the flavor will be stronger so make sure you like the wine you're starting out with.  If you don't drink red wine (gasp!), don't be afraid to use it anyway! The sweetness in the cherries will help even out the dryness of the wine.

While you're waiting for everything to finish cooking, why not have a glass of wine!

11. Serve the chicken with cherry sauce on the side.  I also served it with a small salad and homemade Italian dressing.  YUM!!

These pictures make me want to cook this again, right now!!

This recipe turned out really good!  I changed a couple things from the original recipe: I used red onion instead of shallot, garlic & herb goat cheese instead of plain (just to tone down the flavor a little), I used less oil for frying, and I also changed the order of the directions because I ran into a few problems with the way they timed the sauce and chicken; however, it was a delicious dinner that I’m sure I will make again someday!

Please let me know what you think or if you have any questions for me.  If you decide to make it I would love to hear how it turns out!

Until next time,

P.S. This is why I print out the recipe I'm using instead of using my laptop or my phone... it gets so dirty! haha!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Independence Day Cupcakes!

I've been putting off doing a first blog post for a while now... I haven't really finished any of my million projects and honestly a "first post", in my opinion, should be awesome! Especially because of my hopes and dreams that my blog will be awesome! haha

Well tonight, all my fears are gone because I have something very exciting to share with the world!!

I've been noticing a trend in cupcakes recently - it's this idea of layering colors.  I have no idea if it's new (it's probably not) but I think it's really impressive looking, especially since it doesn't really take that much extra work.

Tomorrow is the day before Independence Day and I thought since work has been especially tough during the last several weeks, I would make something special for everyone.  
I'm proud to say that I came up with this idea all on my own... not the layering part, but the independence part!

Here is my version of layered cupcakes - patriotic style!

I started out with a basic white cake mix and followed the directions exactly.
(the die-hard baker in me is cringing right now but I was seriously strapped for time!)

I then separated my batter into 3 plastic zippered bags and food-colored the crap out of them!!  I started out with 25 drops of blue and then gave up counting and just kept adding till it looked good.

Here are what my bags of batter looked like:

After you've mixed up your batter with the colors you want, snip a tiny corner off the bag and start with the first color (I started with red), then layer your next color on top, etc... keep in mind that you don't want to fill the cupcake tins more than 3/4 of the way or they won't cook evenly and will be more dome-shaped... so don't overdo it with your first couple colors and try to add them evenly.

Bake according to the directions or until a toothpick comes out clean.  
Here's how mine came out!!!

Aren't they just too cute?!?! I love it! 

I had extra white and blue batter so I made these:

Of course they wouldn't be "true" Independence Day cupcakes without STARS!

I hope you like my cute little creations!

Happy Independence Day!

I have a few projects that I'm hoping to finish,
 so please keep checking back for more posts if you liked this one.