It’s My New Favorite Pizza

Spinach-Basil-Pesto-Pizza_Slice

It was thanks to our friends Amy and Russell that we first experienced how amazing homemade pizza could be (link: Pizza Perfected). So of course it was only fitting that they once again led us to a pizza revelation. One night, when we all went out together for pizza and beers, we decided to order a couple of pizzas. The special that night was on any combination of four toppings, and Jan ordered a combination of meat and veggies (very standard supreme). For her order, Amy told the waiter: pesto sauce (doesn’t count as a topping), tomatoes, spinach, grilled chicken, feta cheese, and artichoke hearts (added that as an extra topping).

Never being a fan of “new age” pizzas (sorry, CPK and any fans of barbecue chicken, mushroom alfredo, and/or brussell sprouts and lemon pizza), I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as always, kept an open mind. Continue reading

Barbecue Sauce Taste Test: Chicken

What to do with a pantry full of barbecue sauce and a refrigerator full of chicken? Conduct a barbecue-chicken taste test, of course. The other night, I came home to find Jan in the midst of executing long-considered plan. Over the course of a few shopping trips, he had gathered the “original” flavors of a handful of barbecue sauces, all the while considering what he would do with them. And after reading a recent Consumer Reports article on the best barbecue sauces, it was finally time for him to conduct a taste test of his own.

When I got home, Jan already had a few guy friends over mixing drinks and snacking on appetizers. He had laid out the barbecue sauces in a row, and poured a small amount of each into a bowl. The sauce lineup of original flavor in no particular order: Stubb’s, Jack Daniel’s, Famous Dave’s, KC Masterpiece, and Sweet Baby Ray’s. Continue reading

A Perfect Paella

I had my first paella when I studied a semester in Spain, but it wasn’t until Jan saw it prepared multiple times on Top Chef that he quickly followed suit and we enjoyed this delicious dish together, many years later.

By now, Jan’s a paella expert, and he’s got his recipe perfected. Because the ingredients are basically mixed together and left to cook, following the proportions of rice and broth are important in creating perfectly cooked rice with a creamy consistency.

The concept of the dish is simple, and yet it makes for a sophisticated presentation. I’m always wowed by the aroma, the deep yellow color of the rice, and the abundance of seafood that seems to always be spilling over the pan.

We’ve seen special paella pans marketed to chefs at cookware shops, but a large sauté pan with a lid will do the job equally well. We start by browning the chicken in the pan, removing, and browning onions, garlic and bell peppers. The rice is added, then the chicken stock, and placed in the oven to cook. After about 20 minutes, the chicken is added back on top of the rice, along with the other meat and seafood desired. We cook this another 10-15 minutes in the oven, then add the shellfish and pop back into the oven until they open up.

Step one, choose your pan and brown the chicken
Remove chicken, brown peppers, garlic and onions, then add rice
Add broth, and then into the oven
Getting close!
After the addition of the colorful clams

We like to serve the paella family style so we can ooh and ahh over the contents of the big colorful pan. Serve along with a simple salad, with bread and butter on the side.


Jan’s Easy Paella

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Info

Serves 4

Cook + prep time: 1 hour

*Saffron is an essential ingredient in this dish.  It seems expensive but it goes a long way since you don’t have to use too much of it. It can be found at Whole Foods, World Market or online on Amazon.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound boneless chicken thighs or breast pieces
  • ½ pound large raw peeled shrimp
  • 1 hot link (cut into ¼” pieces)
  • 1 pound thawed frozen clams (I buy frozen pre-cooked clams found in most mega mart’s fish department)
  • 1 medium onion (medium dice)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 oz. long grained rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pinch saffron*
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a oven safe sauté pan with lid.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper and sauté.
  4. Remove chicken from pan and set aside, and in the same pan, sauté onions, garlic and bell peppers.
  5. Add rice and sauté until translucent.
  6. In a separate dish, warm chicken stock and add the saffron to the warm chicken stock. Pour over rice and bring to a boil.
  7. Cover and place in oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Add shrimp, cooked chicken and hot link pieces to pan and cook in the oven, (covered) for another 10-15 minutes.
  9. Add clams and cook in the oven uncovered until clams have opened (approximately 5 minutes).

Simple solo supper

When Jan comes back from being away at a fire assignment, he’ll often ask me what I ate while he was gone. It’s a simple enough question, but I’m always embarrassed to answer. See the thing is, I don’t always feel like going to great lengths cooking dinner when it’s just me. Really, I’m lazy. When Jan returns, I’ll go through my list of lunch and dinner dates catching up with friends, or my rundown of what I ate at my dad’s house. 

But I’m really just putting off his question with a bunch of distractions. He cracks up when I finally answer with one word: chicken. 

Chicken ten ways, I call it. 

Or more precisely, Costco rotisserie chicken (and you can’t beat the price at $4.99), cooked and ready to enjoy. There’s no end to all the different meals I can make with it, besides just eating the chicken by itself. I’ll eat the drumstick and thigh the same night I buy it, still often finger-burning-hot by the time I get it home. Then I use the rest for a variety of other meals over the course of a week, including Chinese chicken salad, chicken noodle soup, chicken tacos, and chicken enchiladas. 

 
The short list of dinner ingredients

I recently shared the first night dinner (when you eat the chicken right away when it is fresh and hot) with my friend Nevin, and she was impressed by the simplicity of it.

That day, I came home from a visit to my dad’s with a bounty of eggplant, squash, tomatoes, figs, and some gourds I have no name for. But for this dinner, I was focusing on the fresh tomatoes. 
From dad's garden

I sautéed some spinach in olive oil and garlic, along with some tomatoes. After plating, I sprinkled the vegetables with some parmesan cheese and enjoyed.   

When I told Jan about this dinner, he only shook his head. On one hand, I think he’s glad my diet hadn’t consisted solely of Cheerios and rocky road ice cream, while on the other, he’s disappointed at my lack of creativity in the kitchen. After all, he had either been eating hearty catered meals at fire camp, or helicoptered-in MREs out in the wilderness (MRE=Meal, Ready to Eat, also known as military rations). With my access to a kitchen full of ingredients, he’d hoped I’d be eating better than him. 

But with this year’s fire season keeping Jan closer to home, somewhere along the way, he started to open his mind up a little more to this Costco chicken. He started brainstorming dishes outside of my usual salads and Tex-Mex, and while he has yet to purchase a chicken on his own, he may be getting close.  

I’m hoping this post will serve as part one in a series about all the great things we can do with a pre-cooked Costco rotisserie chicken, with more semi-lazy dinners and lunches to come.