Am I the only one that thinks coriander tastes like fruit loops? Or, more likely, the fruitiness of coriander is used as a primary flavoring in the cereal of my youth (in combination with a number of other, not so natural flavorings I’m sure). I swear, every time I’m grinding up a batch of the spice it’s like déjà vu, which is probably why coriander is one of my all-time favorite spices.
Take this recipe for example: you might as well be eating fruit loop crusted chicken, without all the sugar. And dyes. And preservatives. And probably a heck of a lot healthier too.
The combination of the fruity and fragrantly spiced chicken, rich caramelized fennel, and the hearty white bean mixture makes for a unique meal. It’s an unexpected pairing of flavors and textures that just works. We left off the radishes because, well, after that episode last summer with the contaminated daikon, we just haven’t had any taste for them. No loss there.
Something else I’ve learned about myself and life in general: tostadas are silly. They are impossible to eat. You end up breaking the flat shell into pieces and eating the dish like it was a plate of nachos. So not cool. So while chicken tostadas might sound exotic, I may suggest using tortillas or taco shells instead. That’s what we did the 2nd time we made this. Much more practical. And I’m all about practical.
Coriander Chicken Tostadas with Refried Beans and Grilled Fennel
Yield: 6 servings
Total Time: 40 minutes
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans (preferably organic), liquid drained and reserved
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
1 large fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, cut through core into 1/3-inch-thick slices (some slices will separate)
6 tablespoons safflower oil, divided
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1/3 cup coriander seeds (about 1 ounce), coarsely crushed in plastic bag
6 purchased corn tostada shells (or soft corn tortillas lightly pan fried in oil)
3 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
6 radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced (optional)
6 fresh cilantro sprigs
To prepare beans:
Place beans, onion, oregano, garlic, chiles, and cumin in processor; blend to chunky puree.
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add bean mixture and 1/2 cup reserved bean liquid. Stir over medium-low heat until warmed through, adding more bean liquid if dry, about 5 minutes. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Rewarm before using.)
To prepare topping:
Brush fennel slices with 11/2 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel slices. Sear until lightly browned and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Cut into strips. Reserve skillet.
Using rolling pin or a meat mallet, flatten chicken between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick cutlets. Spread out coriander seeds on sheet of foil. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; coat with coriander seeds.
Heat 4 1/2 tablespoons oil in reserved skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, if necessary, add chicken to skillet. Sauté until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to work surface. Cool 5 minutes. Cut chicken in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide strips.
To assemble: top each tostada shell with beans, lettuce, radishes, fennel, chicken, and cilantro sprig. Serve with lime wedges.
First of all, let me apologize in advance. These next few months are going to be nuts. I can’t reveal all the details now, but let me just say I’m working on something… very sweet. It’s good. So good I know that it will make up for a few months of scarce posting. You’ll have to trust me on this one.
But for now, I give you this dish. This is one of those dinners that comes together beautifully; one of those meals you could see yourself enjoying in a restaurant.
Even better… it comes with a built in side dish.
I often spend so much time seeking out recipes to cook each week that I completely forget about sides. Which is ok with me, I’m a light eater. But poor Taylor often gets up from the dinner table still hungry. The main dish alone just doesn’t fill him up. Or worse yet, we turn a side dish into a main dish and eat just that. For dinner. No wonder I regularly catch him breaking out the pretzels or popcorn at 9:00 at night.
But this dish did it all for me. Pairing a deliciously spiced chicken with a tart and buttery orange sauce, baby greens (or dandelion greens if you can find them), and a sweet carrot puree. Granted, it’s not the easiest dish to put together, but would be uber impressive to serve for dinner guests.
The puree itself was an interesting concept. When I think puree I always think of the infamous pea puree incident from last season’s Top Chef. (I’m totally going to have to make some pea puree this spring for that reason alone.) This carrot puree, on the other hand, is like candy. After boiling the carrots in broth, then tossing with some rich caramelized onions, the result is incredibly sweet, highlighting the the natural sugars from the carrots and the onions. It’s a concept that could be carried far beyond just this dish.
Puree: not just for babies anymore.
Moroccan Chicken With Carrot Puree
Yield: 6 servings
Total Time: 1 hour
6 boneless skin-on chicken breasts, pounded 3/4" thick
16 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken broth
2 lbs. carrots, cut into 1/4" rounds
1 large white onion, minced
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 peeled oranges, segmented
3/4 cup plus 2 tsp. harissa
2 tsp. sherry vinegar
3 oz. dandelion greens or mixed baby greens
3/4 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, roughly chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
Put chicken into a dish; drizzle with 3 tbsp. oil; season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Bring broth to a boil in a 6-qt. pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots; cook until tender, 15–20 minutes. Drain. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a 4-qt. pot over high heat. Add onions; cook until soft, 4–5 minutes. Add carrots; cook for 6–8 minutes. Puree in a food processor with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper; keep warm.
Heat orange juice in a 2-qt. pan over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced by half, 12–15 minutes. Whisk in butter; season with salt and pepper. Add orange segments; set sauce aside.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a grill pan or a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 3 batches, add chicken, skin side down; cook until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to a baking sheet. Brush with 3/4 cup harissa. Bake until cooked, 6–8 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together remaining oil and harissa with sherry vinegar. Add greens, olives, and shallots; toss. Divide carrot puree between 6 plates; top each with salad and a chicken breast. Spoon sauce over each.
Yep, you can officially call us beet crazy.
But, I mean, how can you not love this? Look at it. It’s hot pink risotto. Hot pink people.
Something about the color of beets just makes me happy. Very few other foods do that. Especially healthy ones. I can’t wait until the beets start rolling in from our CSA this summer. I know Taylor for one is scheming his beet pickling operation, hoping to make the seasonal treat last through the winter. We did a few quick refrigerator pickles last summer, but are looking forward to trying our hand at some more long-lasting variations.
This post also marks our first natural light dinner since last fall. The first meal photographed at dinner time, not leftovers the next day, with no speedlight, in real, honest to goodness, natural light. I know daylight savings time makes most people grumble, and I admit I was one of those when I woke up Monday morning, but the reward at the end of the day was well worth it. Cooking before it gets dark out, what a concept!
Roasted Beet Risotto
Yield: 6 servings
Total Time: 2 hours
3 medium beets (1 1/2 lb with greens), trimmed, leaving 1 inch of stems attached
3 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.
Tightly wrap beets in a double layer of foil and roast on a baking sheet until very tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool to warm in foil package, about 20 minutes.
When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding stems and root ends, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
While beets are cooling, bring broth and water to a bare simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Keep at a bare simmer, covered.
Cook onion in oil in a wide 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.
Add wine and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup broth and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 18 to 22 minutes. (Reserve leftover broth.)
Stir in beets, salt, and pepper (mixture will turn bright pink) and cook, stirring, until heated through. Thin as necessary with some of leftover broth, then stir in cheese and remove from heat.
When you’re younger, field trips usually mean the pumpkin patch. Or the planetarium. Or the farm. A nice change from the classroom, but typically not more than that.
When you’re older, and happen to be a food blogger, field trips to the farm take on a whole new meaning. The farm in this situation was Kenny’s farm. Kenny makes cheese.
The whole outing was organized by the lovely Jennifer, Kenny’s cousin and Nashville rep for the company, Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese. She really went above and beyond to make the day memorable.
The day began at 7:30 in the morning on a beautiful (albeit brisk) Saturday morning. A dozen or so Nashville food bloggers and other members of the food community piled into a van and drove up to the farm in Barren County, Kentucky. I don’t think I need to tell you that when you have that many food bloggers on a drive like that, you can expect the conversation to be lively, engaging, and never straying far from food.
We got there just in time to see Kenny caressing the curds. Cheese making is an exacting process; you do it too quickly or too roughly and the final yield goes down.
The cheese begins as fresh, raw milk piped in from the barn next door (doesn’t get much fresher than that). After bringing the milk to the correct temperature, a vegetable based rennet is added (Kenny’s cheeses are all vegetarian friendly). Once it sets, the curds are cut and gently agitated. The curds were kept in motion and Kenny kept a close eye on the temperature of the batch. When it is “done” (whenever that may be, in our case, it was after we had returned from lunch), the whey is drained off and the curds allowed to settle.
And then in a process called “cheddaring”, the cheese is cut again into tofu-like cubes, then salted, and transferred to molds. In a few short months these little blobs will have transformed into a delicious white cheddar. It’s an amazing process.
This is not tofu.
What got me, and what you wouldn’t really expect from a small artisan cheesemaker, is the sheer variety of flavors and varieties Kenny offers. From your standard cheddar and gouda, to asagio and brie, to flavored cheeses like peppercorn, tomato basil, and horseradish. Kenny’s also makes a variety of blue cheeses, ranging from the subtly tangy to the incredibly funky. (And psst! Kenny’s cheeses are available for purchase online).
Kenny reminded me a lot of a certain Italian cheesemaker who spoke of cheese with the same passion and dedication as Kenny, a fact he clearly conveyed even through his broken English (Kenny’s English was much better). Maybe it’s a required trait that cheesemakers have engaging personalities, their passion matched only by their never ending supply of cheese jokes. Har har.
From day old blue cheese…
To a day old future blue cheese maker…
Say hi to Beth, Amy, and Janet! Lovely hairnets, ladies!
Cheese in the curing room. I don’t know what kind of cheese this is or when it will be ready, but I want some. Last year Kenny’s farm put out nearly 80,000 pounds of over two dozen different varieties of cheese. All from that single stainless steel vat.
Cheddar the dog. Yes, Cheddar.
From the cheese making room we then went outside to meet the cows. We also met Cheddar the lab, who led the way as we walked through the barn.
Kenny’s farm was originally just a dairy. But when he realized that turning his milk into cheese would increase its value three-fold, well, I think we’d all become cheesemakers at that point too.
What’s a cheese tour without a tasting? We sampled brie and blue, tomme and gruyere. Pauline and Ted (named after Kenny’s grandparents) were two of my favorites, but that delightful little wedge of orange in the foreground stole my heart. Norwood, my love, would you like to come home with me? Oh that’s right, you did. I’ve got a big hunk sitting in the fridge right now.
After we had sufficiently stuffed our bellies with cheese, it was lunch time. What do you feed a cheese-crazed crowd of food bloggers? How about a sneak peek at one of Nashville’s newest food trucks, with dishes featuring Kenny’s cheese.
Riffs is slated to open this May, though if you follow closely you may be able to hunt them down for one of their soft launch dates in April.
BJ and Carlos, the minds and manners behind Riffs, prepared three delicious bites especially for us. First was a panzanella salad with cornbread croutons, watercress, bacon vinaigrette, and Kenny’s Blue Gouda in all it’s funky glory. Makes me yearn for summer.
Second, and my personal favorite, was a pork croustade. Seasoned with the most delicious jerk spice mix I’ve ever tasted, and topped with a delicious caramelized slice of Awe Brie and a sweet pear chutney.
Third, a salted cod cake with habanero aioli, on a bed of white cheddar grits and watercress. This was only my second experience with salted cod; the first was in Italy. It seems to me it’s an ingredient that must be prepared properly, you do it wrong and you’d end up with a salty fishy mess. But BJ and Carlos hit it spot on.
And finally (not pictured because it was gone before I could snap one), the not-so-dessert dessert, a savory bread pudding with roasted tomato jam and a mix of cheeses including the Cranberry Havarti.
It was all I could do to stay awake in my cheese induced stupor on the ride home.
Best. Fieldtrip. Ever.
Props & Links:
Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese (find a store near you or order online. Do it.)
Riffs Truck (opening soon… not soon enough in my opinion).
Foxy Baking Co (we got breakfast, too!)
Other bloggers recount the day:
Eat. Drink. Smile.
So How’s It Taste?