Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chicken and Pie, Oh My!

Just because I haven't posted any recipes doesn't mean we haven't been eating! Quite the opposite, it means we've been eating so much I haven't had time. If I ever want to win the Pillsbury Bake-off and the grand prize of $1 million, I have to start coming up with some original recipes. In keeping with that thought, I came up with this pie. Of course it has nothing Pillsbury in it but the crust could easily be substituted with one of those refrigerated varieties that Pillsbury makes. I was craving pie, I was craving something nutty, and I was craving something cream cheesy. Ta da, Caramel Cream Cheese Delight!

For the crust I used a crust mix from William Sonoma but those are way too expensive, although tasty. You could easily whip up your own using your favorite recipe.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup toasted walnuts (spread nuts on cookie sheet and bake in the oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes)
8oz sour cream
1 8oz package cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the first 3 ingredients to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. (Reserve about 1/4 cup to use as a topping.)

Meanwhile, spread the chocolate chips and walnuts in the bottom of your unbaked pie shell. Pour the caramel mixture over the chips and nuts.

To make the cream cheese layer, beat sour cream, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time on low speed, until combined. Pour over caramel, nut mixture.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Chill before serving. Drizzle reserved caramel over each slice before serving.

Just as yummy but a little more healthy is this recipe for Chicken Parmesan. This was another tasty recipe from bon appetit magazine. When Wes saw that this is what Mario Batali serves his restaurant staff, he knew it would be good and wanted to try it. In fact, he volunteered to make the sauce (it turns out he was busy pressure washing the deck, but it's the thought that counts).

Chicken Parmesan
Basic Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup coarsely grated peeled carrots
3 T. chopped fresh thyme
2 28-oz cans peeled whole tomatoes in juice

10 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
1 cup (about) all purpose flour
6 T. (or more) olive oil, divided
3 cups coarsely grated well-drained fresh water-packed mozzarella, divided
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 3/4 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 T. chopped fresh marjoram

Sauce: Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; saute until onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and thyme; saute until carrots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice; bring to a boil, coarsely crushing tomatoes with potato masher or fork. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until sauce thickens and is reduced to generous 5 cups, about 1 hour. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
(Do ahead) Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm sauce before using.

Chicken: Place chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using meat mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken to 1/3-inch thickness. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Spread breadcrumbs on plate. Whisk eggs to blend in medium bowl. Spread flour on another plate. Coat both sides of chicken with flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs.
Preheat oven to 350. Heat 2 T. oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken to skillet and cook until brown, about 2 minutes per side, adding more oil as needed (chicken will not be cooked through). Transfer chicken to platter. Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange 1 layer of chicken over sauce. Spoon 2 cups sauce over. Sprinkle half of mozzarella, Parmesan, and Pecorino over. Repeat with remaining chicken, sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, and Pecorina. Bake until cheeses melt and chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and marjoram and serve.

My notes: Clearly I didn't make all 10 chicken breasts! The recipe can easily be cut down to fit your needs. I used a cheese blend (still fresh cheeses though since that does make a noticeable difference). I didn't use the marjoram at the end either. I made the full recipe for the sauce and used the remainder for meatball subs later in the week. Yummo!

Rating: 4.5*

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