Monday, July 26, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Bites, Baked Macaroni & Cheese, Garlic Toast, and Garlic Butter


Buffalo Chicken Bites

Ok, so Bo felt like something tossed in my chicken wing sauce, but not chicken wings. He didn't know what he felt like, so I went with chicken bites, nice and easy to make. And they were delicious! They were even delicious the next day warmed under the broiler (though completely different tasting, not as spicy, like a warm spice).

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 (so long as you have something else on the side)

Ingredients:

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut unto bite (or two-bite) size pieces
1/3 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups Italian style bread crumbs (or regular breadcrumbs with some Italian seasoning mixed in)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup butter
1 cup hot sauce (we use and love Franks Red Hot, I highly recommend it)

Directions:

1. Take 3 zip-lock bags. Put the flour, salt and pepper in the first, the eggs in the second, and the breadcrumbs in the third.

2. Toss the chicken cubes in the flour mixture until well covered, then put the chicken pieces into the egg mixture and move around until all the pieces are wet on all sides. For the bread crumbs, toss about 6 pieces at a time, and make sure that you let any excess egg drip off before moving them to that last bag (you don't want to gum up the breadcrumbs). Place the chicken pieces onto a plate, because you're ready to fry.

3. Now, I have one of those ridiculously unhealthy but FANTASTIC counter top deep fryers. Bo and I love chicken wings, especially in the winter in front of the TV while we watch a hockey game. I thought it was common for people to have deep fryers, until our cousin Jenny looked at it with pure disgust. So, I get it, you make not have a deep fryer. So, put a couple of inches of oil (I use peanut for deep frying) in a pot (a cast iron one retains the heat best, think Le Creuset or Kitchen Aid who makes a good imitation) and heat it to between 350 and 375 degrees. Drop your chicken in, and fry until deep golden brown, about 8 minutes

4. While the chicken is cooking, it's time for the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and then whisk in the hot sauce. That's it, we're done.

5. Toss the cooked chicken in the hot sauce and enjoy!

NOTE: When I do a breading like this I usually double bread them because it will give you a ridiculous crunch, this time though it was late and I just didn't have the time. If you'd like to, at this point cover the chicken pieces with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (you can do this for a couple of hours if you want to do most of the prep ahead of time). Then, you repeat the egg and breadcrumb dip, then continue with frying.


   

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
 
I love macaroni and cheese. It's that comfort food for me like no other (those of you for whom soup is your comfort food, I feel for you). I saw this recipe on Cooks Country TV (by America's Test Kitchen). Now, I have a serious hard on for America's Test Kitchen, I have never made a recipe by them that I didn't love, and that didn't turn out exactly as they said it would (and I've got over a hundred of their magazines and almost every cook book they've put out). That said, baked macaroni and cheese is my thing, I immediately saw some tweaks that would make this even better, but I will say that their white sauce base kicked my base's ass. Anyway, here's "our" recipe for baked macaroni...you will love...trust!
 
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Bake Time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 8
Ingredients:

4 slices white sandwich bread , torn into large pieces

11 tablespoons unsalted butter , 6 tablespoons melted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbl + 2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 pound elbow macaroni
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and macaroni to boiling water and cook until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup macaroni cooking water, then drain and rinse macaroni in colander under cold running water. Set aside.

3. White the macaroni is cooking pulse bread in a food processor until ground to a fine crumb. Add the melted butter and Parmesan and pulse again to combine. Pour breadcrumb mixture into a small frying pan and toast the crumbs until golden brown, stirring almost constantly.

4. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in the now-empty pasta pot over medium-high heat until foaming. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the evaporated milk, hot sauce, nutmeg, mustard, pepper and 2 teaspoons salt and cook until mixture begins to simmer and is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water until cheese melts. Stir in macaroni until completely coated.

5. Transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch baking dish and top evenly with entire bread crumb mixture. Bake until cheese is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


MAKE AHEAD: Cooks Country TV has directions for making this ahead of time. I can't speak for how well this works because I haven't tried it, but here is their directions in case any of you want to give it a go. If you do shoot me a line and let me know how it goes so I can let others know.

The macaroni and cheese can be made in advance through step 3; since the pasta continues to absorb moisture, adjustments must be made to avoid a dry filling. To do so, increase amount of reserved pasta cooking water to 1 cup. Pour filling into 13 by 9-inch baking dish, lay plastic wrap directly on surface of pasta, and refrigerate for up to 1 day. The bread crumb mixture may be refrigerated in airtight container up to 2 days (Don't toast the breadcrumbs first though, that's something that I added to get a better crunch from them). When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap, cover macaroni mixture with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle bread crumbs over top, and bake until topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes longer.



Garlic Toast

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 5 minutes

Here's just a quick run down for my garlic toast, which is SO easy to make, and so fantastic to eat!

Ingredients:

Calabrese bread (it's got a nice dense crumb that holds the topping well)
Garlic butter (store bought, or recipe below)
Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Slice the bread into 3/4" thick pieces and spread one side with the garlic butter mix (I usually cheat here and buy it at the grocery store, but it's so easy to make too!)

2. Top with a light sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, and for this I actually prefer the store bought pre-grated stuff (like Kraft) to the real thing. Go figure.

3. Place on the middle rack of your oven and broil for about 5 minutes, until the top is a little crunchy feeling and starting to turn golden brown. Watch this carefully though, as it can go from golden to burnt very quickly.



Garlic Butter

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground paprika

Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients together

Notes: This butter is also fantastic on steaks, melted to dip seafood in, and mixed into mashed potatoes. It also stores well in your fridge. Simply roll into a log using plastic wrap and refrigerate, cutting off what you need (example, cut 1/4" rounds and place atop a steak straight off the grill).

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