Friday, January 28, 2011

Fresh-From-Scratch Chicken Reuben Sandwich

The classic Reuben is a grilled sandwich with layers of pastrami or corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian or Thousand Island dressing. It’s a classic, and completely wonderful, deli delight. 

So who was Reuben, and where did he learn to make such a great sandwich? Accounts vary. Some say it was created in the 1920’s by Reuben Kulakofsky, a Nebraska grocer, as a way of feeding his poker-buddies. Others claim it was invented by either by New York deli-owner Arnold Reuben as the “Reuben Special” in 1914, or by Alfred Scheuing, Arnold Reuben’s chef, for Reuben’s son Arnold sometime in the 1930’s. I have no idea which version, if any at all, is true, though I do have a hard time believing a great corned-beef sandwich came out of Nebraska over New York.

Over the years, a variant-Reuben has emerged made with turkey instead of corned beef or pastrami, and cole slaw in place of the sauerkraut.

Today’s recipe is based on the simple idea that almost anything normally made using packaged ingredients can be made better using fresh, home-made ingredients. (For instance, make that same tuna salad sandwich you’ve always made, but use fresh-grilled tuna instead of canned, and you’ll know immediately what I mean.) No disrespect to Sandra Lee intended. I’m just saying…

The Fresh-From-Scratch Chicken Reuben sandwich is similar to a standard Turkey Reuben, with a few exceptions:
  • The meat is fresh cooked chicken breast or, at the very least, a good quality chicken breast sliced fresh at the deli-counter; and
  • Both the cole slaw and the dressing are made fresh.
Once the chicken, slaw and dressing are made, the sandwich is assembled with Swiss cheese and good rye bread, finished with a bit of time on the griddle, and served up to someone very grateful! (It should be noted that there’s a great debate among Reuben lovers as to whether the sandwich should be served closed, as the original seems to have been, or open. Good Reubens can be had either way. This recipe assumes a closed sandwich.)

The slaw is best after it has marinated for a while, so let’s make that first so we can let it rest while we make the rest of the sandwich components. An important, if obvious, note about the cole slaw: even the smallest slaw recipe makes a lot more than is needed to make a few Reubens. It’s ok. Just put it in a sealed container and enjoy it as a side with other meals too. I mean, it’s cole slaw, for goodness sake! (You’ll have leftover dressing too.)

Put ½ a red onion, thinly sliced, in ice water for about 10 minutes to reduce the “bite.” While the onion is soaking, prepare the remaining cole slaw ingredients.

In a bowl, combine the dressing ingredients: 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise; 1/2 tablespoon brown mustard; 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice; 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar; 1 tablespoon sugar; 1/2 teaspoon celery seed; and salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate bowl, combine the vegetable ingredients:  1/2 head of cabbage, thinly shredded (about 3 cups); 1/2 cups shredded carrot (about 1 large); and the sliced red onion, drained well.

Gradually add dressing to the vegetables, mixing well, until the desired slaw texture is reached. Refrigerate the slaw mixture for 2 hours for best taste. When you’re ready to use the slaw, add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley.

Next, the Thousand Island Dressing (makes about 1 cup):

Combine the dressing ingredients: 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise; ¼ cup low-fat sour cream; ¼ cup ketchup; ¼ cup pickle relish; and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
 Now for the chicken:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush 1 pound of boneless chicken breast or tenders with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. (I kept the chicken seasonings simple to bring out the flavor of the chicken while not conflicting with the seasonings in the other sandwich components.) Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. (Note: It’s not necessary to turn them over part-way.)
With the chicken cooked, and the cole slaw and dressing made, you’re now ready to assemble and finish your Reuben!

Lightly butter 2 slices of rye bread for each sandwich. Working one sandwich at a time, put two slices on a not griddle pan, butter side down. On each, put a slice of Swiss cheese, and some Russian dressing. On one of the slices, put some cole slaw, then some chicken. On the other slice, put more cole slaw. Cook until the cheese is melted and each sliced is browned on the bottom. Remove the bread slices to the counter and combine to complete the sandwich. Slice in half diagonally and serve the freshest Reuben in town!
If narrative recipes aren’t your thing and you prefer a notebook-ready, cookbook-style version of this or any other recipe published on Kissing the Cook, just let me know in a comment or an e-mail and it will be sent right out!

I look forward to seeing you here again next week. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Three-Cheese Blintzes with Apple Topping

A warm welcome to all the new Kissing the Cook followers!

Back in the 60’s, an enormously popular ad campaign assured us that it was ok for people of any culture to eat Levy’s Jewish Rye Bread. Today, it is in that same spirit of culinary inclusion that I give you Three-Cheese Blintzes with Apple Topping, along with my complete assurance that you can enjoy them regardless of your heritage or beliefs.

Blintzes, for anyone unfamiliar with them, are a delicious take on crepes that, although often associated with Jewish cuisine, are actually more broadly eastern  European. (You’ll sometimes even find them on good diner menus, alongside meat loaf, open-face turkey sandwiches, and 24-hour breakfasts.)  Many fillings are available but blintzes are most often filled with a sweet cheese mixture made with cream cheese and either farmer cheese, cottage cheese or, in more modern versions, ricotta. The three-cheese recipe below uses a combination of cream cheese, farmer cheese and cottage cheese. (While ricotta certainly can be used, being of Russian extraction I went with the cheeses that more directly address the blintz’s eastern European origins. My grandmother, originally from Kiev, used cream cheese and cottage cheese in hers.) It’s worth noting that my wife, who does not like cottage cheese or farmer cheese, likes these blintzes very much!

The crepes I used are the sour cream crepes I posted a while back. Click here for the recipe, or use your own favorite crepe recipe.

Aside from three-cheese filling, this recipe also varies from the usual blintz preparation in another important way. Blintzes are normally cooked twice: once to cook the crepe, and once to fry or bake the filled blintz to brown its outside. (Those recipes generally include beaten eggs in the filling, which makes the frying or baking a necessary step.) In my version, there are no eggs in the filling; the frying/baking is replaced by simply warming the finished blintzes, leaving the outside cooked, but not overly browned.  Again, it’s the way the ones I grew up eating were made. Topped with a delicious apple topping and some confectioner’s sugar, they not only can be a great dessert, but a wonderful (and just the right bit naughty) main dish as well.

A note about the topping: I selected apples because they’re available year round. If you want to make your topping with seasonal fruit, using the same general method as described below for the apples, it should work just as well. (I confess my one reservation about the apples is that they don’t add enough color to the appearance of the dish.)

The following recipe makes 6 ten-inch crepes.
Make 6 crepes, lightly cooked (see separate recipe), and set aside to cool.

For the filling, combine ½ pound farmer cheese, 1 cup low fat cottage cheese, 8 ounces softened low fat cream cheese, 3/8 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt, and the zest of ½ lemon. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the topping.

For the topping, put 1/3 cup sugar and the juice of ½ lemon, into a saucepan, and stir until the juice is distributed and the sugar is dissolved. Add ½ teaspoon kosher salt; a pinch of ground nutmeg; and 5 large red delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped into ¼” pieces, and turn the heat on very low. Cook until the apples are softened but not mushy. Put the topping aside and let it cool.

To prepare the blintzes, lay a crepe out flat and put about 1/3 cup of cheese filling half-way between the center-line and edge nearest you. Fold the edge nearest you over the filling, then fold in the left and right sides, then roll the crepe away from you to form the blintz, folding the sides in again if necessary. Repeat until all the blintzes are made.

To serve, top each blintz with some of the apple mixture, then heat gently until warm but not hot. Sprinkle some confectioner’s sugar on the plate as a garnish, then put a warm blintz with apple topping on the plate. Garnish the topping with a bit of confectioner’s sugar. Serve warm.
This is special dish I really hope you’ll try and enjoy.

For a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, just ask in a comment or e-mail and it will be sent from me to you!

Till next week, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Brown Rice Rizzuto

Brown rice what?

As much as the title may at first appear to be the result of a guy from New Jersey trying to spell “risotto” from how the word sounds, it’s not. This is the side-dish follow-up to last week’s Italian-style breaded fish article, and a brief explanation of its origins before we get to the recipe is probably in order.

If you cook risotto, a rich (and heavenly!) rice dish, regardless of where you learned how, the first thing you were taught about it almost certainly was this: regular rice must never be used in a risotto recipe. The rice you use must be Arborio rice, carnaroli rice, or one of a few other special varieties.

When you were told that, didn’t you wonder, even just a little, what would happen if you did use regular rice? We know it wouldn’t turn out to be risotto, of course, but what would it be? It made me wonder, and there was no way to find out except to try. It taught me two things:
  1. Simply substituting brown rice for Arborio rice, and in all other ways using the risotto cooking method and ingredients, results in undercooked brown rice. 
  2. Cooking brown rice using the normal rice method, but using risotto ingredients, results in a delicious, rich-tasting side dish.

And while that tasty side dish couldn’t be called risotto, being made from many of the same ingredients made it seem somehow related. The solution: name it after the great Hall of Fame Yankee shortstop and broadcaster, Phil Rizzuto.

The recipe below makes 5 to 6 servings of Brown Rice Rizzuto. The overall method for cooking the rice is based on the normal cooking instructions for whatever rice is being used. Since I used Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Brown Rice, I replaced the 2-1/4 cups of water called for on the box with the combination of broth and wine described in the recipe. When you're making this, if the cooking directions for your rice call for a different amount of liquid, simply adjust the quantity of broth and wine proportionately.
Combine 1 cup of brown rice, ¾ cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or similar), and 1-1/2 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken, depending on what you’re serving the rice with) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium heat and cover. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté ¾ pound of vegetables (I used a combination of grape tomatoes and fresh spinach), 1 small onion (finely chopped), and 4 finely chopped garlic cloves. When the vegetables are about half-way cooked, add 1/8 cup of pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Avoid adding the salt when you first put the spinach in the pan. Salt draws out water and, with vegetables such as spinach, which have a high water content, this can dry the vegetables too much before they’re cooked.) When the mixture has finished cooking, drain it using a colander and then rinse well with cold water to stop the cooking. Set the vegetable mixture aside.

When the rice has absorbed all of the broth and has finished cooking, add the vegetable mixture and heat through. Stir in ½ cup of grated parmesan (fresh grated is best, and usually costs less per pound too!), then check again for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Serve immediately.
I think you'll enjoy this delicious and simple-to-make side dish. And if at some point you feel like jumping up and yelling, “Holy Cow!,” we’ll understand completely.

If you'd like a cookbook style, notebook ready copy of this or any other Kissing the Cook recipe, just let me know in an e-mail or comment and I'll get it right out to you.

Be sure to come by next week for an all new recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Breaded Baked Italian Style Fish Fillets

Ciao amici!

This week’s recipe is a little unusual in that it’s the first of a two part combination. Like a good movie, a well-made dish has both a star and high-quality supporting players. My offering today is the star of the dish – a breaded Italian style baked fish fillet – and next week we’ll continue with a delicious (and just a bit unusual) brown rice side dish that goes especially well with it.

I’ve made this twice: once with scrod and once with pollock. Both worked equally well, and I expect any other white fish would too. I’ve not prepared other types of fish this way, but I have every reason to believe it would be successful as well. (I also might give this a try with chicken breasts some time soon.)

You'll see that the recipe is simple, and the result is delicious. A couple of notes before we begin will fill out some of the recipe’s details:
  • Before coating the fish with the seasoned bread crumb mixture, I seasoned the fish itself with a bit of olive oil, and a mix of salt, pepper and garlic powder. I like this much better than having all the seasoning in the breading since it distributes the flavor throughout the entire bite, rather than relying only on the breading.
  • Instead of plain bread crumbs, I like to give the breading a more varied texture by using a mixture of plain crumbs and panko. (Panko, for anyone unfamiliar with it, is made from bread without crusts and has a texture that is crisper than plain bread crumbs. Originally used in Japanese cooking, panko is now in common use all over and can usually be found at the supermarket right next to the plain breadcrumbs.) For me, plain breadcrumbs, while very good, seem to say, “Good evening. I’m your breaded coating and I’m going to help make eating this fish a pleasurable experience for you.” Using panko adds a bold crispness that grabs you by your collar and says, “Yeah, I’m the breading. You got a problem with that?”
To make four servings:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Dry the surface of four fish fillets using paper towels, then brush both sides of each fillet lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Make the fish seasoning by mixing 1 tablespoon of  kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper, and 1teaspoon of garlic powder, and apply it generously to both sides of each fish filet. (Any remaining seasoning mixture can be reserved to season whatever vegetables you’re serving with the fish.)
You’re now ready to bread the fish fillets. An easy way to do this without making a mess is to put the flour, seasoned bread crumb mixture and, if you like, even the egg substitute (or beaten eggs) into large sealable plastic food storage bags.
Place three pans (or the sealable bags) on the counter. In the first, put 1 cup of all purpose flour. In the second, put two egg substitute eggs (or two regular egg, well beaten). In the third, combine the following ingredients to make the seasoned bread crumb mixture: ½ cup panko bread crumbs, ½ cup plain bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons  of  dried basil, 2 tablespoons of dried oregano, 1 tablespoon of dried parsley, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, and the zest of 1 lemon or orange.

Working one fillet at a time, put each fillet in the flour and coat well, then in the egg, then in the seasoned bread crumbs. Be sure both sides are well coated. As you finish breading each fillet, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Once all the fillets are coated, bake them until the fish is cooked and flaky, about 10-12 minutes, turning them over half way. To serve, drizzle each fillet with a little olive oil and garnish each plate with a lemon wedge to serve. (A glass of white wine won't hurt, either!)
So there you have part 1 of our delicious Italian-style dinner. Coming up next week in part 2: a special side dish I call “Brown Rice Rizzuto.”

As always, if you’d like a cookbook style, notebook ready copy of this week’s recipe, just let me know in a comment or an e-mail and I’ll send it along.

See you next week for part 2! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to baci il cuoco. ;-)