Curried Chicken & Couscous…and the winter that won’t end!

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Sorry I’ve been away for awhile…priorities have gotten in the way of fun…work…taxes…family…cats…you know, LIFE! ¬†ūüôā ¬†I feel like we are drowning in snow, here in Minnesota. ¬†We’ve had 6+ inches of snow this past week (to add to the two+ feet on the ground) and today we¬†are under a Winter Storm Warning currently with another 3-5 inches of snow today…AND temperatures are diving back into the single digits. Hello January.

Oh & Wednesday, it’s the first day of Spring. ¬†Yeah, so there’s that.

Anyhoo, today I bring you my version of¬†Saut√©ed Chicken Breast with Apple Curry Sauce, via Caprial’s Cafe Favorites written by Caprial Pence. ¬†One of the things I love about this dish, is that it’s super quick & easy, perfect on a busy weeknight! ¬†I have had this cookbook forever…and oddly enough, only ever made two things out of it! ¬†She’s got plenty of great looking recipes…I will have to give some of the others a chance. ¬†You know you love a recipe, when you grab the cookbook to refresh your memory and the book falls open to that exact page because the binding has worn itself open there! ¬†Not to much the splatter marks of dinners past. ¬†This dish definitely ignited my love of curry, many years ago.

I thought we could first talk about curry, because for some of you, it might be a new spice to your cabinet! ¬†I buy most of my spices from Penzey’s but found another great online source call The Spice House.

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On the page where they show their curry powders they say this: ¬†Curry powder is a blend of many spices, and comes in almost infinite varieties. ¬†Each curry powder can have different component spices, in differing amounts–making each curry blend unique. ¬†In recent years, Ras El Hanout has become increasingly popular as a Mediterranean style curry. Garam Masala is a Northern Indian style sweet curry blend useful for many vegetarian Indian dishes, and is available in whole or ground forms. And try our newest curry blend, the French-influenced vadouvan curry, a mild yellow curry with grated shallots. ¬†Maharajah curry powder, a sweet yellow with cardamom and whole threads of saffron in the blend–it’s curry fit for a king! ¬†We also offer a Thai red curry, which is hotter with lemongrass and galangal.” ¬†I¬†definitely¬†want to try the Thai red curry!

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The two most common versions of curry powder is yellow sweet (mild) or hot. ¬†I have used both the sweet (mild) curry in this dish but this time, used Penzey’s Maharajah curry powder, with those little flecks of saffron, it really took this dish to new heights!

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This is a great dish to enjoy in late fall, as the apple orchards are humming with gorgeous apples & cider. ¬†Or, in my case, in the throws of a winter that will never end…

I have always served this with couscous. ¬†I feel like it’s just the perfect texture to absorb this sweet & savory sauce! ¬†The original recipe calls for a boneless chicken breasts, but I used two bone-in chicken breasts. Caprial also mentioned this sauce would be just as delicious on pork or fish! ¬†Chicken thighs would also be a wonderful option to try! ¬†So let’s get cooking!

Curried Chicken & Couscous:

~ two bone-in (or boneless) chicken breasts

~1/2 cup heavy cream

~ 1/2 cup apple cider

~ 1/2 cup white wine

~ one granny smith apple, peeled & diced

~ 1 tablespoon (or more) curry powder (your choice)

~ two shallots (or 1/4 onion), chopped

~ two cloves of garlic, chopped

~ two teaspoons of fresh ginger, chopped

~ butter & olive oil

Can I just say a word here about chopped garlic & chopped ginger? ¬†We always have three varieties of garlic in our house. ¬†Granulated (powdered), fresh (jarred) chopped and fresh whole garlic. ¬†We use the granulated for dry rubs or in the kids pasta (they don’t like the bite of actual garlic), the fresh whole, for roasting and recipes where I want the “bite” of garlic, and the fresh chopped for everything else. ¬†People, don’t be afraid to buy the little jars of garlic & USE IT. ¬†It’s quick & easy to add into just about anything. ¬†We’ve always had granulated ginger on hand, for this recipe or that, but recently I bought a jar of the fresh chopped and boy, I am glad I did! ¬†I LOVE ginger and now have been using it much more because of that cute little jar, just hanging out in my fridge, waiting for it’s next moment to liven up a dish! ¬†Now, if I could just find shallots this way…

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Start by getting all ingredients gathered & prepped.  Take the chicken and drizzle a bit of olive oil on to them and then season with salt & pepper.  In a large sauté pan, on medium-high heat, brown off the chicken breasts on both sides.  Remove from pan and place into a baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and pop the chicken in.

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In the same saut√© pan, turn medium-low heat, add the shallots (or onion) and ginger. ¬†Then add the diced apple & garlic. ¬†After a couple of minutes, add the wine & cider, deglazing the pan and reduce this to about half it’s original.¬†While that is working, in another small saut√© pan, add the curry over low-medium heat and dry saut√©. ¬†Do this until the aroma is given off, being careful not to burn it. ¬†Add the curry powder to the apple mixture. ¬†Then add the cream to this mixture and continue to cook until sauce thickens. ¬†Set aside, keeping warm until the chicken & couscous has finished cooking.

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Cook your couscous according to package directions, but be sure to use stock instead of plain water.  It just makes it taste LOTS better.  (see mine even had bits of veggies in it!)

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Your chicken breasts will be done, when the internal temperature reaches 155-160 degrees, most likely after being in the oven for 35-45 minutes. ¬†(do you have a meat thermometer? ¬†You should if not…) ¬†Be sure to let them rest before slicing into them, just like any other meat.

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I’ve been thinking about the ingredients in this dish. ¬†I bet, it would be ridiculous with coconut milk instead of heavy cream…and can you imagine using the Thai red curry powder?!?! ¬†Oh…and how about coconut rice instead of couscous?!?! ¬†That might have to be another blog post! ¬†ūüôā

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And last, I don’t ever do this, but that night, when we settled in to eat this dish, we drank this wine with it…….it was REALLY great with this dish! ¬†It’s a relatively inexpensive Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon you can find at most liquor stores. ¬†Nothing fancy, but it was a great pairing if I do say so myself!

Until next time friends…here’s hoping we finally get out from under all this SNOW!

Cheers!

Shawn

Balsamic & Fig rubbed Chicken & a Beatrice update…

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Well it’s been an interesting week here; the previous frigid cold temps have been making me want to eat comfort food everyday and now it appears as though we are plunging back into the deep freeze after a lovely three day hiatus! ¬†I’ve got some oh-my-gosh-they-are-so-cute-I’m-gonna-die pictures and updates of our adorable new family member, Beatrice. ¬†There, I said it. ¬†Now, can we make it so, number one? ūüôā

Sadly, I am feeling how tight the jeans have become these past few months. ¬†Even after busting my butt with tremendous amounts of basket orders over the holidays…it’s all still there, taunting me everyday I get dressed. ¬†After leaving my part time job, that had me sitting for most of six hours a day, I have been trying to incorporate a bit of exercise into my daily routine, although hating it, every step/weight/crunch I do. ¬†Yeah, I’ve never been much for working out. ¬†So, this latest comfort food binge will most likely haunt me, specifically my thighs, butt & stomach, but for now my body wants warmth. ¬†Is it Spring yet? ¬†Ugh. ¬†So, I caved…and what is one of the best ways to warm up? With food silly! ¬†Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself…so let’s begin this food fest already!

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Last Saturday we indulged in Truffle Mac & Cheese with Eggs en Cocotte. ¬†We have both white & black Truffle oils and I have been craving it in Mac & Cheese for some time now. ¬†And the baked Egg Cocotte was something I wanted to try for some time. ¬†It’s basically an Egg, with cream, a bit of cheese & herbs, baked in a ramekin in a water bath in the oven. ¬†Here is a great recipe from The Kitchn, & reference for how to make your own delicious egg dish!

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On one of the coldest nights we had Butternut Squash Risotto. ¬†I think Risotto intimidates people, but it’s actually really easy! ¬†All it involves is a lot of stirring, as you slowly incorporate the liquid into the rice. ¬†You should try it sometime, it’s so worth the extra time & muscle! ¬†Hey, think of it as a mini-workout! ūüôā

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I tried my hand at making Chicken Marsala…yeah, I know, kinda weird I hadn’t already ever made it & it turned out pretty good! ¬†It’s bathed in wine & mushrooms…so what could be wrong with that?!?

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Friday night we made homemade pizza. ¬†Sweet Italian Sausage Pizza with caramelized Onion, Fennel & Green Olive style-Pizza-night baby! ¬†Do you have a designated Pizza night? ¬†I love to do that on Fridays…the end of the work week, it’s nice to take a relaxed approach with dinner that night. ¬†We use frozen pizza dough, (it’s a Rhodes product you can buy in the freezer section at your store) which you can pull out of the freezer in the morning, spray one side of plastic wrap with oil and wrap the loaf up to rise on the counter for the day. ¬†Oh, and don’t forget the cheese. LOTS of cheese, this time it was mostly Mozzarella with a bit of smoked Cheddar & grated Parmesan once it comes out of the oven. ¬†We’ve done blue cheese, goat cheese… ¬†It’s all good, as long as there is cheese! ¬†Have I told you I love cheese? ¬†Yep, another vice of mine…all cheese & lots of it.

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Next night we had Polenta, braised greens & tomatoes and basted eggs. ¬†Have I told you I could eat eggs everyday? ¬†Yep, I love me some eggies ūüôā ¬†Someone recently asked what my favorite three foods were. ¬†Wanna guess my response? ¬†Eggs, cheese & BACON!! I am truly a Minnesota-Iowa girl. ¬†Oh and about that, anyone know where I can get a really good, freaky huge, totally calorie-laden Pork Tenderloin sandwich here in the Twin Cities? ¬†I want the kind that is three times bigger than the bun, with pickle slices and gobs of mayo….like I used to get at the local Hy-Vee foods near my work….sad isn’t it? ¬†It still haunts me ūüôā

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But most recently, I roasted this amazing Chicken dish. ¬†Let’s call it Balsamic & Fig rubbed Chicken. ¬†It was so easy and ended up delicious I thought it would be fun to share it with you! ¬†I used a Chicken thigh/leg combo…please, please use dark meat for this dish. ¬†If you absolutely hate dark meat, then go ahead and use a bone-in Chicken breast. ¬†But only if you absolutely hate dark meat. ¬†Otherwise trust me and make it this way! ¬†The meat ends up so moist & tender it falls right off the bone!

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I roasted this chicken over a bed of thinly sliced fennel, onion & diced parsnips but you can use potato, carrots, sweet potatoes or whatever you like to roast with your chicken best. ¬†And the fig portion of this dish, was a jar of Fig Butter I had purchased awhile back from Trader Joe’s. ¬†I love this butter, it’s thick, not super sweet, and full of rich fig flavor & crunch! ¬†Really you could use any jam/butter for this dish. ¬†Cherry…Apricot…you pick it! ¬†I had enough of the parsnip mixture leftover to put on the top of baked potatoes for my next two lunches! ¬†I could eat that everyday…

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Balsamic & Fig rubbed Chicken:

~1/4 cup of Fig Butter (or any jam/butter of your choice)

~1/4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar

~enough whole Chicken pieces (skin-on, white or dark) to feed your crew

~three large parsnips, diced

~1/2 sweet onion, sliced thin (you could even use red!)

~1/2 head of fennel, sliced thin

~five cloves of garlic, skin removed & crushed

olive oil ~ salt ~ pepper

Pre heat your oven to 325 degrees. ¬†Mix together the jam/butter & the balsamic vinegar. ¬†You can add a bit of the olive oil & salt and pepper to this as well. ¬†Then rub the all the chicken with this mixture. ¬†Carefully poke your fingers in between the chicken & it’s skin, separately it slightly, enough to be able to tuck some of the jam/butter inside. ¬†Set this aside. ¬†Then after chopping/slicing up the parsnips, onion & fennel, mix this all together with the rest of the olive oil, salt, pepper & crushed garlic. ¬†Lay this on the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top. ¬†Cover the pan with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. ¬†Pop in your oven, plan to cook it at 325 for at least an hour, but if you can do an hour and a half, the stuff will literally melt away from the bone! ¬†If you want to try to crisp up that chicken skin a bit, uncover it for the last 15 minutes or so, being very careful not to burn the skin, as it will quickly, with all that delicious jam/butter & balsamic!

Kick back, cozy up and enjoy my friends!  Please, let me know if you make this, or have your own go-to delicious chicken recipe you want to share!

Oh wait, I almost forgot…you want to see the¬†oh-my-gosh-they-are-so-cute-I’m-gonna-die pictures of our new girl kitty Beatrice, don’t you?! ¬†Okay, I readily admit that some of you closest to me are probably sick of hearing about it, but I’m a proud Mama and can’t help myself! ¬†Crazy cat lady, yes, yes…I know, I know…

IMG_7172A first kiss…

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IMG_7249First evening snuggles…

Oh my gosh, the cuteness with these two never ends! ¬†So, I don’t even know where to begin to get you caught up! ¬†Since we last chatted, I was getting ready to take her to the vet, hoping she’d get a clean bill of health so I could let her come up from her basement chamber. ¬†Well, that was one of the scariest things I have ever done…trying to put her in the kennel. ¬†Never want to have to go there again….but, we made it, she made it and came home with a clean bill of health!

Shortly after getting back home, my youngest cat Indy did another one of his dive bombs at her, to which previously I prevented to the best of my ability. ¬†This time, I thought, what the heck, let her kick his little butt, for getting all up in her grill. ¬†Well, little did I know, that’s EXACTLY what she wanted!! It was truly love at first sight. ¬†She immediately became a totally different cat. ¬†Flopping down on the floor in front of him, rolling around with her belly up in the air…cat flirtation at its best! ¬†So, I let her hang out with the other cats, which obviously she is most comfortable with, being she has been running with her “herd” the past 10-ish months.

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Over the past week, she has gotten braver & braver with us, hanging out on my daughters bed with the crabby cat (Augie) and just tonight she crawled up next to me on the couch, like a real house cat! ¬†Still not excited about us touching her, but we’ve been able to get a few pets in the past couple days. ¬†Baby steps…or should I say, kitty steps…

It’s truly amazing and I have enjoyed the past week immensely! ¬†Thank you all for your good wishes, encouragement and for cheering me on through this whole process! ¬†It was so difficult to keep her inside, where she initially hated every minute of. ¬†But I just couldn’t bear the thought of her being outside any longer. ¬†With the impending cold again, I worry about her Mama, Daddy & two other siblings. ¬†Hoping they’ll all cuddle up and make it through another night or two of cold. ¬†So, for now, keep warm thoughts for her family members, and all the other animals who’ll be going through another night of negative degree temps.

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Oh my gosh, the cuteness!!! Indy & Beatrice sittin’ in a tree…. ‚̧ ‚̧ ‚̧

Until next time, stay warm!

ūüôā Shawn