Tips for Cooking Chicken Breasts Perfectly and Chicken Parmesan Recipe

Tips for Cooking Chicken Breasts Perfectly and Chicken Parmesan Recipe

November Newsletter

I know Turkey is top of mind this month but Chicken is the number one protein for American Meat Eaters! Not only is it a healthier choice than Beef but check out so many other reasons to reduce your Beef intake https://www.peta.org/living/food/top-10-reasons-eat-cows/.

The issue with Chicken is cooking it properly! It is either to dry, has no taste or worst case scenario if handled incorrectly can make you sick! Between working in commercial kitchens and cooking as a Personal Chef I have developed some tricks over the years to ensure flavorful and moist Chicken Breasts.

1. Carryover cooking is a huge issue with Chicken Breasts! Safe internal temperature for Chicken Breasts is 165°. Two key issues here, so many home cooks don’t use a thermometer, it’s a must and pull the Chicken at 160° as it will continue to cook.

2. Dry Brine it is worth the time. Remove Chicken from package one day prior to cooking. Pat it dry and place on foiled lined baking sheet then sprinkle both sides generously with kosher salt. Place in lowest shelf in refrigerator overnight. This method relaxes the fibers and lets the meat absorb their natural juices making it juicy and tender. This method works best if seasoning with just olive oil or butter and dry spices for grilling, frying or baking.

3. Marinating is a huge win with Chicken Breast. A marinades primary purpose is to add flavor, but also helps the meat to remain moist after it’s cooked. It can be made with oils, herbs, spices, juices and more.

4. Baking tip: A higher Temperature 450ºF and shorter cooking time will help to seal in moisture.

5. Pounding or butterflying is another secret to succulent chicken, creating an even surface will ensure even cooking.

6. Breading, the standard breading practice is Flour, Egg, Breadcrumbs. Cook’s Tip, season the flour with salt and pepper and don’t forget to add your favorite flavors to the breadcrumbs like dried herbs and your favorite cheese.

7. Baking versus Frying I like the below recipe!

Perfect Baked Chicken Parmesan

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 chicken breasts, about 8 oz each, sliced in half lengthwise to make 8
  • 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, I use a combination of Italian Breadcrumbs and Panko
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted (or olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup marinara
  • olive oil spray

PREPARATION:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a large baking sheet lightly with spray.
  2. Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Melt the butter in another bowl. Lightly brush the butter onto the chicken, then dip into breadcrumb mixture. Place on baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.
  3. Lightly spray a little more oil on top and bake in the oven 20-25 minutes or until internal temperature reads 160°.
  4. Remove from oven, spoon 1 tbsp marinara over each piece of chicken and top each with 1 1/2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese.
  5. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.
San Marzano Tomatoes and Marinara Recipe

San Marzano Tomatoes and Marinara Recipe

As your Chef, my #1 priority is to use the finest ingredients I can find to craft your meals. A true pantry staple that is woven into so many of my recipes are San Marzano Tomatoes! One of the most distinctive traits is the rich sweet taste that other canned tomatoes don’t have! Many canned brands are full of seeds and have a tinny flavor, and the only way to balance that out is to add sugar. Check out this link for more information.

Many of you have asked for my Marinara Sauce Recipe, and after many hours of testing, I settled on Rao’s Marinara Recipe. Here is a little bit of info about Rao’s. Chefs Tip: Too busy to make your own Rao’s? It’s now sold in grocery stores, and bonus, it is always voted best jarred marinara!

Rao’s Marinara Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 28 ounce cans imported Italian San Marzano crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes
  • 6 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Make the sauce: Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Sauté onion with salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté just until softened. Add tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Add the basil, oregano and reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. If adding Meatballs place in sauce to simmer.
Velvet Cauliflower Soup

Velvet Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 heads cauliflower depending on the size leaves trimmed
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 pieces maybe more
  • 3-4 potatoes peeled and quartered, I like Yukon gold
  • 2-3 shallots, roughly chopped *can use 1 medium onion or 1 leek sliced and rinsed
  • ½ cup white wine *optional
  • Coarse kosher salt (more than you think)
  • Lemon infused olive oil *Cooks note: I use this to roast my florets you can use extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 1/2–5 cups water more or less depending on size of cauliflower and potatoes
  • Garnish Options: fresh parsley, thyme, basil, green onion, white and light green parts, chives, Frank’s Red Hot

Preparation:

  1. Pull off outer leaves of cauliflower and trim stem. Using paring knife, cut around core to remove and cut up into large florets. Cut heaping 1 cup of 1/2-inch florets from head of cauliflower, set aside. Quarter potatoes make sure potatoes are a little smaller they take longer than the cauliflower.
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and salt. If using wine, cover shallots and let simmer (you can use water). Cook until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add chunks of potato and water to the saucepan with shallots. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes until potatoes are almost tender. Add cauliflower and possibly more water and salt, simmer until tender about 10-15 minutes. *Cooks Tip taste the water, here is where you can start to achieve the flavor you want.
  4. Meanwhile, line a small baking sheet with foil and add the reserved florets tossed in lemon olive oil and salt, roast florets on bottom shelf in a 400 oven for 15 -20 minutes until golden brown. You will need to flip and watch them carefully.
  5. Process cauliflower and potatoes in batches in blender using some of the cooking water until smooth and desired thickness. Be careful not to use too much water, it’s easier to thin out than to thicken. Returning pureed soup to pot, bring to brief simmer over medium heat, and adjust consistency with remaining water as needed (soup should have thick, velvety texture). Season with salt to taste and maybe more butter. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with roasted florets, fresh herbs. *This soup is delicious cold it tastes just like Vichyssoise……
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash is an integral part of several of my menus and I have been asked repeatedly what’s the best way to cook it. Truthfully, it’s taken me some time to master the process as I used to cook the squash way to long and it became watery and mushy. Once you’ve mastered this roasting method you’ll be able to use this underrated vegetable as a main dish or a simple side dish! Don’t have a recipe in mind check out these spaghetti squash recipes.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

  • Pre-heat oven 400 degrees.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Cut the squash in half length wise. Then scoop out the seeds.
  • Drizzle the insides lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.
  • Place squash cut side down and poke a few holes in the skin.
  • Place in oven for 30-40 minutes for more al dente strands. Timing will also depend on the size of the squash and the heat of your particular oven.
  • To check the doneness, you are looking for remove at 40 minutes and flip the squash over being careful not to burn yourself and run a fork from the outside in to make strands. If it is not tender enough place back in the oven being careful not to overcook.
  • Remove from oven, once cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape squash into a bowl. This is where you can customize the flavors you like. *My go to is toss with a little more olive oil, Pecorino Romano, fresh basil and salt to taste. I serve it over Arugula tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Yum……
Mushrooms and All Their Benefits plus Sautéed Mushrooms Recipe Tips

Mushrooms and All Their Benefits plus Sautéed Mushrooms Recipe Tips

For most vegetarians, mushrooms are a staple. Not only do they mimic the texture of meat, but they contain so many health benefits.

In addition to their health benefits they are amazingly versatile and insanely flavorful! As you likely know, fresh mushrooms have a rich, umami flavor on their own but punched up with aromatics and a de-glaze of spirits they become wonderfully savory and complex. They make a great side dish or the perfect addition to soups, pizza, stews, eggs and now so many folks are making burgers. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to eat them straight out of the skillet.

Once you assemble your ingredients for the recipe of your choice, you’re ready to cook! Here are my best tips for sautéed mushroom success:

  • Don’t wash them, wipe them! Generally, when I cook with fresh produce, I wash it under cold running water before I use it. But not mushrooms! They soak up moisture like a sponge, so if you wash them, they become waterlogged. This means that they won’t brown as they cook. When it comes to sautéed mushrooms, browning = flavor. So, to help the mushrooms brown, wipe them clean with a damp paper towel.
  • Don’t move the mushrooms for the first 2-3 minutes of cooking. Start with a pat of butter. Add the mushrooms to the hot pan being careful not to over crowd. Don’t move them for a couple of minutes. This way, they’ll get a nice golden brown sear, which will add rich flavor to the final dish
  • And after that, stir only occasionally. Sautéed mushrooms are best when their edges are nicely browned, which results from consistent contact with the hot pan. If you stir too much, they’ll soften before they have a chance to take on color. De-glaze once golden brown and allow the moisture to absorb then hit them with some fresh herbs off the fire. Use as a side or add to your chosen recipe.


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My Secret for Cooking Shrimp!

My Secret for Cooking Shrimp!

Due to where we live, I’m limited in getting good quality seafood consistently, but I can get beautiful wild caught North Carolina shrimp. The good news is shrimp and related prawns have so much versatility. They are the perfect candidate for entrees, salads, tacos, stews and soups and can be baked, boiled, fried and grilled, but my go to method is roasting! Each and every time they come out moist and juicy. So, give the recipe below a try and see what you think. Bonus I added my Green Goddess dressing recipe. It’s the perfect dip for the shrimp.

INGREDIENTS

For the shrimp:
2 pounds large shrimp (14 to16 shrimp per pound)
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. I often times use Old bay Seasoning it really amps up the flavor

For the Green Goddess Dressing:
1 cup good mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (5 to 6 scallions)
1 cup basil leaves (18 to 20 leaves)
1/2 cup parsley I prefer curly
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
• Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on if using for shrimp cocktail. Be sure to pat them dry. Place in bowl and toss them until evenly coated. Pour on to a foil lined sheet pan and spread them in one layer. Roast for 8 -10 minutes depending on the size. Check at 8 minutes as there will be carryover cooking. If you think they are getting to done place in fridge to cool down. If not set aside to cool.
• For the dressing, place herbs in food processor and coarsely chop. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth. Adjust seasonings if needed. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. Serve as a dip for the shrimp with the crudités or for your favorite salad.