A Weekend in the Poconos – 03/26/10: Asiago Chicken with Pancetta; Homemade Pizza

This trip to the Poconos was centered around the kitchen and the amazing meals we had planned.  Due to the rain and temperatures hovering in the 30’s we decided to cook entrees that would warm us from the inside out.  On Friday night I decided to cook Asiago Chicken with a side of Chive Polenta, Mushrooms and Onions with Gorgonzola, and Green Beans.

Here are the recipes:

Asiago Chicken

4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
4 slices Asiago cheese (1/8″ thick)
Flour
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 slices pancetta
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme or fresh oregano

Mix some salt and pepper (1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper) along with about 1/2 c. of flour in a shallow bowl or plate.  Dredge chicken breasts, shaking off any excess flour.  Place chicken in a hot oven-proof skillet with ~ 1-2 Tbsp olive oil (as needed).  Turn on broiler and move rack to the top shelf.  Cook the chicken until golden brown (3-4 minutes), flip and cook additional 3-4 minutes.  Place 1 slice of cheese followed by 1 slice of pancetta on each chicken breast.  Place in broiler and cook until chicken reaches 160F (~4-5 minutes) and pancetta “crisps”.  Remove chicken from pan and cover with foil.  Add 1/2 of wine and finely chopped herbs to pan, deglaze, and reduce until thickened.  Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

On Saturday night we had some delicious homemade, thin-crust pizzas that Brie made.

The one on the left was a spinach (sautéed with garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and olive oil), oyster mushroom, and gorgonzola pizza.   The gorgonzola melted perfectly and the spinach blend had a lovely taste and texture.  The oyster mushrooms really held up well and were still firm, without a touch of the slipperiness that button mushrooms can have.  The crust had good flavor, and was made with a touch of red wine (thank you Mr. Batali).

The second pizza (on the right) featured roasted red peppers, hot italian sausage (crumbled and cooked beforehand), oyster mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, and a homemade red-sauce base. 

Valhalla NYC, Now Serving Food!

It’s been in the works for months, but as of this past Monday Valhalla is now serving food.  While I am sad that we can no longer bring in our own snacks, or a Sacco’s pizza, the obvious benefit is having everything under one roof.

The Offerings:

Bratwurst –  They have a spicy cheddar, pork, and chicken brat available by itself, or with a “platter” of sauerkraut, red cabbage, gherkin, and german potato salad.  We tried the Valhalla Bratwurst Platter (the spicy cheddar wurst) which is mildly spicy, with hot bubbling cheese and a fantastic texture.  I loved the snap of the casing!  The bratwurst was hidden inside of a roll (see photo below), which turned out to just be way too much bread.  Once I removed half the bread it was perfect.  Also, the side dishes in the platter were all well done.  The standouts are the potato salad and gherkin, which both take me back to Germany.  All for $10.

Pretzels –  Not your typical street corner pretzel, but the Bavarian style served with some spicy mustard.  They are served warm, moderately covered in salt, and had a nice outer part with a wonderfully chewy center.  $3, or 2 for $5.

Dried Sausage – Served in a compressed “stick” style with spicy mustard.  This was awesome.  It reminded me of a BiFi that I would get at gas stations in Germany, but it was even better.  Probably because it was much fresher!  $3, or 2 for $5.

Gherkin – German pickles  $1

With this bounty I was drinking 500mL glasses of Bitburger.  Fitting, eh?

The photo.  I apologize for its lack of clarity, but it was taken with my iPhone in a low-light setting:

Marinated Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches with Roasted Red Pepper and Gorgonzola Spread

This has got to be one of my favorite last-minute recipes to make.  It is so easy and tastes amazing.

Ingredients:

1 large Portobello mushroom per person
1 similar sized Ciabatta roll per person
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3.5 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Tbsp Gorgonzola per person
1/2 Tbsp Butter/Spread per person
Thyme
Salt
Pepper

Step 1: Clean mushroom caps to remove and dirt.  Cut stem so it is flush with the cap.

Step 2:  In a large sealable bag, place the caps, the garlic, 3 Tbsp Olive Oil, 3 Tbsp Balsamic, Thyme, salt and pepper (all seasoning to taste).  Remove air from bag, make sure everything is mixed well.  Let sit at LEAST 1 hour.

Step 3:  Roast the red pepper until skin is blackened.  Place in a bowl, cover tight, and let “steam” until skin can be easily removed.

Step 4:  Combine Gorgonzola and Butter in a small bowl and blend until well mixed and creamy.

Step 5:  Place marinated mushroom caps in a large baking dish and broil (my preferred method), or bake (400F), until flesh gets soft and darkens.  ~15-20 minutes, depending on method.

Step 6:  Meanwhile, cut the roasted pepper into chunks (removing interior bitter white parts and seeds), and process/blend until pureed with 1/2 Tbsp balsamic.

Step 7:  While mushrooms are still cooking, cut Ciabatta in half, and about 5 minutes before the mushrooms are done, put in the oven to toast.

Assembly:  On top piece of toasted Ciabatta, spread a nice amount of the Gorgonzola spread.  Place the mushroom on the bottom piece, gills up.  Put the red pepper sauce on the mushroom, cover with the top piece, and enjoy!

**NOTE**  Have lots of napkins… this is a messy meal, but OH so good.

“A Behanding in Spokane” – A New Play by Martin McDonagh

We are big fans of Mr. McDonagh’s work, so when I got an email a few weeks back offering discount tickets to his recently opened play, A Behanding in Spokane, we had to go.  The only thing I knew about the play going in was that it was a dark comedy; as if it could be anything else.  Having seen both The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore in person, I had a good idea of how “dark” of a play it may really be.

The play was being performed at the Schoenfeld Theatre, a rather intimate venue, on W. 45th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway.  We had decent aisle seats about 15 rows from the stage, but I don’ t think there would have been a bad seat in the house.  The play revolved around a man who was searching for his missing hand (forcefully removed from his body when he was a boy), a hotel “receptionist”, and two misguided pot dealers.  In the typical McDonagh fashion, the dialogue is what made the play.  Interestingly enough, I didn’t find it nearly as dark as his previous works, and not quite as funny as The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  With that said, Christopher Walken was a perfect casting choice for Carmichael, the man in search of his missing hand.  He was creepy, in the way that Christopher Walken can only be, yet damn funny.  I think the star of the show however was Anthony Mackie, who had some incredibly fast paced lines that were truly hilarious and well acted.  Sam Rockwell’s monologue was another one of my favorite parts of the show as well.  All in all, this was a very entertaining show and I am so glad we got to see it within the first few weeks of its opening.  Was it McDonagh’s masterpiece?  No.  But if he continues to produce works of this caliber for the rest of his life, I will be a happy (and entertained) old man.

Grilling in the Snow – Another Weekend in the Poconos

After four weeks without leaving the city, we were desperate to get out to the Poconos and have a little breathing room.  When we arrived in Long Pond we were shocked to see the amount of snow still on the ground.  There was over 3 feet of snow in many places, with 6′ tall drifts around the house and 10′  tall plowed piles on the sides of the road.  It was insane.

One of the delicious meals we had this weekend was a pesto-stuffed chicken breast recipe that my mom made.  It was served over wild rice and topped with a tomato relish.   With that we had a side of baked butternut squash and roasted asparagus.  We even used the official “Hotel Hübner” plates.  It was a lovely start to a great weekend.

The weather had warmed up significantly by Sunday morning and I was adamant about using the grill for the lunch that we were going to make for our friend Scarlett.  Although I had to shovel a ton (literally) of snow off the deck, it was finally starting to dry in the sun by midday.  The next step was to prepare lunch.  The previous day we had run up to Wegmans and picked up 4 pounds of NY Strip Steak, some bell peppers, gigantic white mushrooms, and some pearl onions with the thought that we could make some kebabs and put them on the grill.  Luckily, the weather had worked out and a bit later we had another fantastic meal.

We weren’t the only ones that were eating well this weekend.  On Friday night we looked out on to the patio and saw this awesome porcupine, dubbed “Prickles” by my parents, munching down on an ear of corn.  The photo isn’t the best, but he’s a cute little bugger:  What a great weekend!

Door to Door Organics Delivery – 03/02/10

This week’s delivery included the following:

5 – Grapefruit
6 – Navel Oranges
1 – Bunch Spinach
1 – Butternut Squash
6 – Bosc Pears
6 – Braeburn Apples
2 lbs Bananas
1 lb Carrots
1 – Bunch Red Kale
2 lbs Yellow Onions
3 – Roma Tomatoes
1 – Head Green Leaf Lettuce
5 – Avocados
1 – Celery

Since we are headed to the Poconos for the weekend we are going to have to take a bunch of this stuff with us.  We’ll see what we end up cooking!