Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chicken Parmigiana - Italian-American Comfort Food Classic

Was needing to find a downtown restaurant for some dinner plans and the search led me to the Dallas area of the West End.  Back in the heyday, it was THE spot to go and be seen.  Though the days are long past, a Yelp posting for Spaghetti Warehouse got me happily reminiscing about meals past.  Back then, one of my favorites from their Italian-American specialties was chicken parmigiana.  Honestly, it's an abomination of calories (KFC should take lessons about using that chicken as part of a sandwich), but was oh-so-tasty!

Granted, these days, I'm more likely to seek out a kale salad than a deep fried chicken bomb, but every so often, nostalgia calls.  Luckily for me, this month's Cook's Illustrated was at the ready to accommodate my chicken parm craving with a boastful recipe claiming to be the best chicken parm.  Hmmm...

What can I say, it was the right recipe on the right day!  I won't reprint their recipe (that whole permission thing), but what I will say is here are some of the techniques they taught me that helped make it easily a top 5 chicken parm WITHOUT being deep fried!  Yum!

You know you want some!
The zen of chicken parm:
- Season the chicken with salt and leave out 20-30 minutes  before breading.  Added great flavor and no need to salt the flour, bread crumb mix, etc!
- Mix egg and a little flour to coat the chicken.  Then, dip in breadcrumbs mixed (1:1 ratio of cheese and Panko bread crumbs was my preference) with Parmesan cheese and some seasonings (garlic powder, oregano, pepper, etc.).  (No extra salt was even needed!)
- The BEST hint? Pan-fry breaded chicken in oil (shallow fry), then drain on paper towels. Put the chicken on a cookie sheet and sprinkle HEAVILY with mozzarella (fresh shredded) and/or a mix of mozz and a more melty cheese like Fontina.  Broil until bubbly, THEN put on tomato sauce over the cheese.  Keeps the breading crispy that way.

I served with cooked spaghetti and some whole wheat garlic bread for some tasty eats.  Happy eating!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Heidelberg Soup - Potato Cheese Goodness

It's funny how sometimes a cookbook just appeals to you and it's the first one you seek when searching for inspiration.  Years ago, my mother-in-law gave me such a treasure for Christmas, "The Recipe Hall of Fame Cookbook." It's one of those cookbooks with food you likely grew up eating and has a mixture of regional favorites from throughout the country.  Though my style of cooking tends to avoid processed foods more these days, I still reach for this when seeking comforting cuisine and crowd-pleasing potluck favorites.  It's a bit well-loved at this point, full of bookmarks and comments, but isn't that the fun of a favorite cookbook?

One recipe that always receives rave reviews and something I make each winter is Heidelberg Soup.  I'm not sure of how "authentic" this recipe is, but I have modified it to add more veggies and some porky goodness to suit our tastes.  I will say, there are few things more satisfying in winter than a steaming bowl of soup love with crusty bread and a salad. I love, love, love this recipe! Happy eating!

Heidelberg Soup

(Serves 6 - 8) Inspired by "The Recipe Hall of Fame Cookbook"
5 medium potatoes, peeled and large diced
1 large onion, medium dice
5 cups water
1 - (16 oz) package steam-in-bag frozen vegetables (recommend carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower blend)
1 - (16 oz) package steam in-bag frozen broccoli florets
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup (if allergic to mushrooms use 2 cans cream of celery)
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 can mushrooms, drained (optional)
4 slices bacon

To prepare bacon, place slices between 2 - 3 sheets of paper towels and microwave on high 1 - 3 minutes or until mostly rendered and slightly crisp. (Microwaving time will vary based on thickness of bacon and degree of crispness you like).  Chop bacon and set aside.

To prepare soup, add potatoes, onion, and water to soup pot or large Dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Boil until tender, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook frozen vegetables according to package directions.  When potatoes are cooked, add vegetables (including mushrooms if adding) and soups.  Stir in Velveeta until melted and heat until bubbling.  Top servings with bacon and serve with crusty bread and salad.