Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chicken Breasts in Asiago-Mustard Sauce

Recipes don't get much easier than this. It cooks up lightning fast. It all cooks up in the same pan. Basically, all you have to do is keep adding ingredients and stirring. And I am here to tell you the sauce is just incredible. Check out the all-stars on this list......

Pan seared chicken breast. Sautéed mushrooms. Onion, garlic and thyme. Then the liquids are a gift from the gods: white wine, chicken broth, heavy cream and both stone ground and dijon mustards. And the crowning glory....freshly grated asiago cheese.

Now you might be tempted to cut a corner and just use 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard. Do not fall into that trap. This dish really needs Inglehoffer Stone Ground Mustard (my favorite brand of choice).  Inglehoffer is to regular mustard as Barolo is to fruit juice. Don't be that person. This Kevin Lynch recipe serves four.

2 tablespoons oil or butter
4 (6 ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup asiago cheese, grated


  1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-hight heat, season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, add them to the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4-6 minutes per side. Then set aside.
  2. Add the mushrooms and onion and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and it has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  3. Mix in the garlic and thyme and cook, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the wine and deglaze the pan.
  5. Add the broth and cream, mix in the mustards, season with salt and pepper to taste, add the chicken, bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
  6. Mix in the asiago and let it melt, remove from heat and serve.

Wine pairing: White wine lovers should select an oaky California chardonnay. Red wine lovers will be well served by picking a nice fruity zinfandel.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Weapon of Choice: Microwave Pasta Cooker

When it comes to kitchen gadgets, I'm about as cynical as they come. I can't begin to tell you the number of kitchen gadgets that arrived in the mail only to have their little lives snuffed out in the garbage can a few days later. It's happened to me so many times that I just don't buy them any more.

Cooking pasta is a bit of a pain. You have to fill a huge pot full of water and heat it to boiling....which usually takes about 30 minutes to get up to speed...then another 12 to cook it. A little while ago I was watching a cooking show and saw an ad for the "Fasta Pasta" microwave pasta cooker.

While I was intrigued, I was also skeptical. So I dialed up my favorite shopping site,, and headed for the reviews. Lo and behold there were 800+ reviews for this product....with 97% of them giving it a 5 star rating. And priced at just $14.99, that was a pretty low barrier for acquisition.

So I ordered one and I'm here to tell you this thing is slicker than frog hair. Ridiculously easy to use and the end results are fantastic. You can use the lid to measure your pasta and then you can use the corresponding marks on the side to fill it with cold water (you can use it to cook anywhere from 4 to 16 ounces of pasta).

Then you set your pasta in the tray, fill it to the correct level with cold water and set it in your microwave (you cook the pasta without the cover). Turn your microwave on high and 14 minutes later you have perfect, al-dente spaghetti.

Then you simply slap the lid back on and drain the water. That's all there is to it. Not only is it so stinking easy, you'll use a lot less energy and water to cook up your pasta. Clean up is a breeze as you can just pop it in your dishwasher. It will cook up any kind of pasta, from lasagna noodles to ravioli...even shell pasta and egg noodles. It's my preferred weapon of choice for easy pasta cooking and you can check it out here:

Wine pairing: I prefer to sip a nice, fruity Merlot while my pasta cooks.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Roasted Bacon

I have a favorite place for brunch and the primary reason it is my favorite is that they serve roasted bacon. When bacon is roasted, all of the fat is rendered and you end up with wonderfully crisp strips of bacon. The operative words here are "render the fat"...that is the key to perfect bacon.

Roasted bacon works best for a crowd....when you need to cook 10-12 pieces at once. If you are looking at making just one or two servings, I recommend frying it up in a pan. My first recommendation for frying is to use a cast iron pan. Steel would be my second choice.

Most people heat the pan up first and then add the bacon. Dumb. Dumb because the bacon cooks too fast and the fat doesn't get rendered, leaving you with limp bacon. The correct way to do it is to start with a cold pan, then add the bacon and then crank the heat to high. This method will render the fat and give you nice crisp bacon. It takes about 8 minutes in a cast iron pan...11 minutes for steel.

But the tastiest way to get crisp bacon is to roast it in the oven. Start with a foil-lined baking sheet with a wire rack. Lay the strips out on the wire rack and pop it in the oven. The temperature is high enough to render the fat. And thanks to the wire rack, the fat drains away and you don't have to flip the bacon while it cooks.

For the best roasted bacon, you want to buy thick-sliced bacon. If you are going to cook store-bought bacon, I recommend Hormel Range Brand Thick Sliced Bacon. Great product with a big hearty bacon taste. If you want to taste the most extraordinary bacon on the planet, try wild boar bacon. It's pricey at $15 per pound, but it is absolutely the best tasting bacon ever. I get mine here:

12 strips thick-sliced bacon


  1. Preheat oven to 425º.
  2. Wrap a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top.
  3. Place strips of bacon on wire rack.
  4. Slide pan/rack into oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and serve.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chicken Parmesan

While I am going to share Melissa Clark's recipe for Chicken Parmesan here, I want to impress you with the versatility of this dish. While the sauce and the cheese are a constant, you can really substitute any form of protein that you want in this recipe.

Veal, chicken, pork or beef cutlets....they all work. Get your Italian mojo going with either Italian sausage or meatballs. Even seafood would fly here....shrimp sounds particularly good. You could even make this a vegetarian dish by using cauliflower steaks instead of a protein.

And while you could easily substitute a store-bought tomato sauce to speed up the recipe, take the time to make this fantastic sauce from scratch. It's a gift. This recipe serves six and takes just 75 minutes to make...and 40 of that is in the oven.  :-)


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red chile flakes 
2 (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes
2 sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper


  1. In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden. Add chile flakes and cook 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
  3. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. If using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or use chicken thighs for even more flavor)
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 to 3 cups Panko bread crumbs, as needed
Kosher salt, as needed
Black pepper, as needed
Olive oil, for frying
5 cups Simple Tomato Sauce
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ pound shredded  mozzarella cheese

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Place cutlets between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap. Using a kitchen mallet or rolling pin, pound meat to even 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  3. Place flour, eggs and panko into three wide, shallow bowls. Season meat generously with salt and pepper. Dip a piece in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat until all the meat is coated.
  4. Fill a large skillet with 1/2-inch oil. Place over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry cutlets in batches, turning halfway through, until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  5. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce. Place half of the cutlets over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella cheese. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan, and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
  6. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

Wine pairing: Chianti