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
- 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
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a large baking sheet lightly with spray.
- 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.
- Lightly spray a little more oil on top and bake in the oven 20-25 minutes or until internal temperature reads 160°.
- Remove from oven, spoon 1 tbsp marinara over each piece of chicken and top each with 1 1/2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.
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
- 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
- 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.
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……
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.
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.
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
• 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.