Everyday Kitchen -
It wasn't possible to put all the questions and recipe answers in the column last week, so I'm finishing it off today. Of course, I never really reach the end because there are as many twists and turns in cooking as there are different types of food. Although these are sent out to those who asked specifically for them, I hope they are useful to many of you.
White wine pan sauce
You've pulled a tray of fish, chicken pieces or pork chops out of the freezer. Now you need to decide on a sauce. Gravy is always a good choice for meat, and you have barbecue or other bottled options, or maybe canned soup - last resort if you ask me. When I fry any kind of meat or fish, my first choice is a simple pan sauce.
I always have baggies in the freezer with a little white or red wine in them for just this purpose; if company is coming, I've opened a bottle anyway. If I don't have a shallot, there's always an onion in my kitchen, and it's almost as good. Make this sauce while your meat rests. If I want a slightly thicker sauce, I whisk in cornstarch slurry or swirl in a little cold butter for a special glossy finish, but served just like this it is great. For beef, use beef broth and red wine for an equally delicious result - fresh rosemary would be a good herb choice. A non-stick frying pan won't give you the same depth of flavour, but use one if you prefer.
1 tbsp. butter or margarine (unsalted or low sodium is better)
1 large minced shallot (or 1/4 cup minced onion)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
handful fresh chopped herbs - Italian parsley is the standard
Use the pan you cooked the meat or fish in - preferably one that allows some sticking on the bottom, because that fond is the basis of your sauce's flavour. Discard any remaining fat and add butter or margarine. Cook shallot until wilted and just starting to colour, then add chicken broth and wine, stirring to get any brown bits on the bottom. Simmer gently to reduce by about half. Add herbs and serve immediately.
Spinach and herb stuffed chicken breasts
Everybody loves chicken breasts with traditional bread stuffing bulging out under the shiny, crisp skin, especially smothered in gravy. Assuming you all ate too much over the holidays - at least, that's what you're telling me - you are no doubt looking for ways to lighten up without feeling deprived. Here's a satisfying alternative that allows self-congratulations, and a great dish on which to try today's pan sauce recipe. Use a baking pan that you can put on top of the stove and save yourself a dish.
1-1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (divided)
2 tsp. savoury (divided)
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
1 10-oz. box or bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3/4 cup chevre (goat cheese) or other soft unripened cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp. olive oil
Combine 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs with 1 tsp. of the savoury and set aside. Combine remaining 1 cup crumbs with remaining savoury, thyme, spinach, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper; mix well. Cut a slit through the centre of each chicken breast - don't cut through the back edge, but get in there as deeply as you can. Divide the spinach mixture among the breasts and secure the edges with toothpicks or tie with kitchen twine. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle reserved breadcrumb and savoury mixture over top. Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes or until the juices run clear and the chicken is cooked through. If you prefer to play it safe, use a meat thermometer and look for 165 F in the middle of the stuffing.
Classic fettuccini alfredo
This is probably the recipe I've gotten asked the most about in the past 10 years. So, yes, you've seen it before.
The only difference today is a couple of suggestions for tarting up an already spectacular dish. Don't attempt to pass this off as light, and make the servings modest, but cream and butter do have restorative properties in the dead of winter. This recipe makes a generous amount of sauce, so use only what you need. If you have some left, it is delicious in macaroni and cheese or with more freshly cooked pasta the next day. You can play with the amount of cheese you use to suit your taste; just add a little more cream at the end to get the right consistency.
1/4 cup, butter, preferably unsalted (absolutely not margarine)
1-1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp. whipping cream (divided)
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (a microplane does the best job)
pinch each salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb. fettuccini
thawed sweet green peas, chopped smoked salmon, diced prosciutto ham, rinsed and drained capers, or grated lemon zest to taste
lots of chopped fresh Italian parsley
Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add 1-1/2 cups of cream and bring to a boil; simmer a few minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add cheese, stirring until smooth. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook fettuccini according to package instructions and toss together with cooked sauce. The sauce should be very creamy and plentiful, but it tightens quickly. If it's too thick for your taste add remaining 2 tbsp. of whipping cream; warming the serving bowl will maintain the texture much longer. If using, stir in peas, smoked salmon, prosciutto, capers or lemon zest, or garnish the pasta with one or more of these on top. Some people prefer to retain the pristine whiteness of the sauce, but parsley adds exactly the right herbal note for me - your choice. Serve right away.
Maple Dijon broiled salmon
This is another twist on a go-to recipe for me. So many people ask me for salmon recipes, I don't know why it's not the biggest section of the grocery store. This recipe is rich and sweet without being cloying. The flavours are so strong you need only serve this fish with plain rice or potatoes and steamed veggies for a wonderfully special dinner. You don't need much salt here, but don't scrimp on the pepper.
juice and grated zest from 2 oranges - you need about 1/2 cup juice
1/4 cup brandy or dry sherry
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large salmon fillets
Whisk together orange juice and zest, brandy, maple syrup, mustard, Worcestershire, pepper and salt. Pour over salmon in a large glass dish. Refrigerate up to 4 hours, turning fillets over once or twice. Remove salmon then bring marinade to a boil; simmer together about 5 minutes. Broil salmon about 4 minutes a side - a little pink in the middle is a good thing. Serve cooked marinade on the side or drizzle on top just before serving.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, NL, A1E 4N1.