July 25, 2015

Roasted Chicken with Cannellini Beans and Tomatoes

This recipe is the epitome of a one-pot meal. You get to have a protein, a starch, and a veggie all using only one skillet and one cookie tray, which I definitely appreciate given my lack of time after class and my teeny summer kitchen. This dish is also really healthy and really colorful, plus I get to use some gorgeous cherry tomatoes from my local farmers' market. It's a win-win-win-win-win meal.

In my opinion, the chicken is the most important part of the dish. It's crispy, salty, juicy, and tender. As for most of my roasted chicken dishes, I prefer bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. They have all the flavor from the bone plus the skin gets shatteringly crispy. They also don't take as long to cook as bone-in, skin-on breasts, which means the tomatoes and beans don't burn and you get to eat it that much sooner.

The chicken is seasoned simply with flaky salt and freshly cracked black pepper before being seared in a big skillet. If you have an oven-safe skillet big enough to hold all your chicken, I'd recommend using that for all the cooking for the whole dish. I, however, like to make big batches of this since the leftovers are so good, so I cook the chicken in batches and finish everything on a baking tray.

Regardless of the pan you use, sear the chicken until golden and crisp. Patting the skin dry before you cook it helps develop that delicious crust, and so does not overcrowding the pan. If you have too much chicken in the pan, the pan cools down and basically just steams your chicken, which isn't really what you want here. It's better to cook in batches; the crispiness is worth the extra time.

You should end up with a good portion of chicken drippings when you're done. Normally, I'd go ahead and make some gravy, but here I use them to flavor the tomatoes and beans underneath. I whisk the drippings with garlic, herbs, and spices, and you can also add a splash of balsamic vinegar if you want to go in more of an Italian direction, though this is already pretty Mediterranean.

The chicken dripping mixture gets tossed with the cherry tomatoes and cannellini beans (or you could use chickpeas instead). I use fresh whole cherry tomatoes and rinsed canned cannellini beans (try saying canned cannellinis three times fast). They add bulk and flavor to the meal without being insanely expensive, plus the cherry tomatoes at my farmers' market look fantastic. You've probably noticed that I just used red ones for the batch that I photographed, but any bite-sized tomato--red, yellow, purple, orange, or otherwise--will work perfectly.

I finish the dish in the oven so that the chicken cooks through and drips even more flavor onto the beans and tomatoes below. It's best hot out of the oven, but it's easy to make a big batch so you can eat the leftovers all week. I'd recommend sticking portions back into the oven so the chicken skin re-crisps, but any way you eat it will be miles better than a sad-looking sandwich that got smushed on your way to work. It's a great weeknight meal, especially if you get to eat leftovers for the next few days.

8 Bone-In Skin-On Chicken Thighs
2 15.5 oz Cans Cannellini Beans, Drained & Rinsed
3 Cups Cherry Tomatoes
8 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Sprigs Rosemary
4 Sprigs Thyme
1 Sprig Oregano
1 1/2 tsp Paprika

Heat oven to 400F.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sear until deep golden brown on both sides, cooking in batches as necessary. Set aside and reserve the drippings.

Toss the beans, tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and paprika together with the chicken drippings; season with salt and pepper.

Spread the vegetable mixture in a thin layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Nestle the chicken on top and roast for 16-18 minutes or until cooked through.

Serves 4-6
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

July 16, 2015

Seared Salmon with Corn Relish

One of the many perks of living in Madison for the summer is the farmers' market, which I personally think is the best in the country. The corn is especially delicious, with Wisconsin being in the Midwest and all, and lately the tomatoes have been looking pretty good too. I was also lucky enough to find Vidalia onions all the way from Georgia in my local grocery store, and the absolute best way to combine all this fresh produce is by making a relish, which just so happens to go perfectly with salmon to create a healthy and flavorful weeknight dinner.

I tried to keep the salmon itself fairly simple to let the relish stand out. It marinates in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and rosemary just while you start on the relish, and it gets a final sprinkle of flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper before being seared in a hot skillet. I prefer thicker pieces of salmon, so I've found that it needs a few minutes in the oven to finish cooking. If you have a thinner piece or don't mind the skin getting a little *too* crispy (read: burnt) you can cook it fully in the skillet.

Honestly, the best part of this dish is the relish. I can eat this stuff with a spoon, especially if I throw in some crispy chopped up bacon (always a welcome addition). I start by tossing some cherry tomatoes in olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper and roasting them in a hot oven until they burst. I generally leave the oven on but at a lower temperature in case I need to finish the salmon. Meanwhile, I caramelize the onions. Actually, I usually do this first since it can take a reeeeeally long time to get them done properly, but slicing them as thin as possible definitely speeds up the process.

Lastly, I simmer the corn until sweet and tender and remove the kernels from the cob. The corn kernels, caramelized onions, and tomatoes are tossed together (you can also throw in any leftover fresh herbs you have on hand) and spooned over the flaky, juicy seared salmon. I've been eating this practically every other day this summer, so I'm pretty sure I'm singlehandedly supporting the Wisconsin fish importing industry.

1 1/2 lbs Salmon
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Sprigs Rosemary
4 Ears Corn
1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
2 Sweet Onions, Sliced Thinly
2 tsp Brown Sugar
1 T + 1/4 tsp Baking Soda

Heat some oil in a large skillet and add the onions. Cook over low heat until tender and almost caramelized, about 30 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and 1/4 tsp baking soda, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking until fully caramelized, about 10-15 minutes more.

Combine the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and some sea salt and pepper and brush onto the salmon.

Heat oven to 400F and line a baking tray with parchment.

Toss the tomatoes in some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread onto the prepared tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes or until just burst. Lower the heat to 375F and place a new sheet of parchment on the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the remaining baking soda and the corn. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain the corn and remove the kernels when cool.

Heat another large skillet and sear the salmon until brown. Transfer to the prepared tray and roast in the oven for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through.

Stir the corn kernels and roasted tomatoes into the skillet with the onions. Cook over low heat for 4 minutes or until hot, then serve over the salmon.

Serves 6
Recipe Adapted from How Sweet Eats

July 4, 2015

Skillet Cookies

It was my birthday earlier this week, and sadly (or not?) I was too busy to post one of my favorite recipes of all time: skillet cookies. My quest to bake the perfect skillet cookie started at an Atlanta steakhouse called Bricktops. Every time my family went there I would insist on ordering this giant, gooey chocolate chip cookie baked in a skillet and topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce regardless of how full I was from my steak and whipped potatoes. Eventually I realized that if I could make skillet cookies at home I could eat them even when I wasn't already stuffed and could therefore manage to eat more of these addicting desserts.

I suppose I could have just pressed my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe into a skillet and baked it halfway, but that just wasn't right. It's still a pretty similar recipe and is definitely just as easy as making regular cookie dough. In fact, this is probably even easier because there's no scooping involved; you just press the dough into the skillet and bake.

The recipe starts by melting the butter--the first deviation from my regular recipe. Melting the butter makes the cookie denser and less cakey. That doesn't sound particularly appetizing until you consider the fact that you're basically eating half-baked cookie dough, which doesn't need to be fluffy or cakey. That melted butter is whisked with granulated sugar and a little extra brown sugar. The extra brown sugar makes it a little sweeter (you're making a giant skillet full of molten cookie dough... go decadent or go home), moister, and adds a hint of caramel flavor. After the sugars come the eggs: one egg and one yolk to be precise. The extra yolk keeps the cookies soft and tender, and I use the same ratio for my regular chocolate chip cookies.

I also add some salt and vanilla; I add a fair amount of both because the salt enhances the other flavors and I'm pretty sure I'm addicted to vanilla. The dry ingredients are next. It's your standard mix of flour and baking soda, nothing fancy. Lastly, I stir in a ton of chocolate chips. Cutting chunks from a baking bar is always a good plan since I love how rustic the different sizes are; no bite is the same. If I don't have a baking bar on hand, I use a mix of regular chips and mini chips so I still get some variety. Of course, any chocolate is good chocolate (except unsweetened), so whatever you have will work just fine.

The biggest secret to this recipe isn't what's in the cookie; it's how you bake it. I happen to have two small skillets that are the perfect size for this. You can make this in one big skillet for an extra-gooey treat or just in a pie plate or cake pan if you don't have a skillet. The baking time is entirely up to you depending on how gooey you want this. I know a few people who just like the idea of a giant cookie, so they prefer to bake it until it's cooked through. I, however, am on Team Cookie Dough (TM?) and refuse to cook this any longer than half-baked. The timing does depend on the size and material of your baking vessel, so just keep an eye on it and take it out when it looks done to you. As soon as it comes out of the oven, top it with some ice cream and douse it in caramel and/or hot fudge and you've got the perfect dessert for any occasion.

1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Melted
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
2 1/2 Cups Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
3/4 tsp Salt
2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/4 Cups Chocolate Chips

Heat oven to 350F. Grease your skillet or mini skillets.

Stir the butter, sugar, and brown sugar together. Whisk in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Fold in the flour, baking soda, and salt, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Divide the dough between the skillets and smooth. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden and jiggly.

Makes 4 6" Skillets or 1 Large Skillet
Adapted from Cookies and Cups