2.29.2012

Vote for Us in the Saucy Mama Cooking with Mustard Recipe Contest



Click RIGHT HERE to vote for our "Skinny Stuffed Tarragon Lemon Mustard Chicken" in the Saucy Mama's "Skinny Mama - Cooking with Mustard" Recipe Contest.

You can vote once every day from today (Wednesday 2/29) until Wednesday 3/6.

Support Chris and Amy, aka A Couple in the Kitchen, in their quest for fame and fortune!

ROCK THE VOTE!






2.28.2012

Skinny Stuffed Tarragon Lemon Mustard Chicken - Made with Saucy Mama Mustard! And a GIVEAWAY!

We were chosen to take part in Saucy Mama's "Skinny Mama - Cooking with Mustard" Recipe Contest, and as such, a nice big box filled with a variety of Saucy Mama mustards appeared on our front porch not too long ago. We were quite excited to try some new mustard flavors, and the "Smoky Garlic" and the "Tarragon Lemon" flavors especially appealed to us. The contest rules dictated that we had to use one of the mustards to create an original recipe that follows the guidelines of any well-known diet plan.


The recipe we came up with is called "Skinny Stuffed Tarragon Lemon Mustard Chicken," and it is as deliciously flavorful as it is low in calories. The Tarragon-Lemon mustard packs an herbacious punch of flavor with hints of tangy citrus, and the vegetables stuffed inside the chicken keep it moist and fork-tender. Even with a side dish of pretty red lentils, a serving comes in at only 302 calories! It has a mere 3 grams of saturated fat, and the dish is low-carb as well as high in protein, niacin, folic acid and Vitamin A. And did you happen to notice that it only takes about 25 minutes to make??? It's the perfect weeknight dinner!






You may think you'd like to try this at home, but you don't have a bottle of Saucy Mama's mustard handy. We have great news for you - Saucy Mama has offered us an additional three bottles of their mustard to GIVEAWAY! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by Wednesday March 7th, including your email address, and a random number generator will choose the winner for us.




Finally, and maybe most importantly, this contest is being decided on Facebook. So if you like A Couple in the Kitchen, and our "Skinny Stuffed Tarragon Lemon Mustard Chicken" sounds good to you, please vote for us HERE. Voting starts Wednesday February 29th (Leap Day!) and ends on March 7th. And you can VOTE ONCE PER DAY!!!

Skinny Stuffed Tarragon Lemon Mustard Chicken
(Makes 6 servings)
Ingredients:

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons Saucy Mama Tarragon Lemon Mustard
1 plum tomato, julienned
2 slices sweet yellow onion, 1/4-inch thick
6 spinach leaves
2 ounces white wine
1 cup fat-free chicken broth
3/4 cup red lentils


Preheat oven to 375. Lay chicken thighs flat on a work surface and season them on both sides with salt and pepper. Pour the mustard into a bowl and gently toss the chicken thighs in the mustard; set aside for 10 minutes to marinate. Once again lay chicken thighs flat on a work surface. On top of each chicken thigh, place one spinach leaf, 3-4 julienned slices of tomato, and 3-4 slices of onion until chicken is covered with vegetables. Roll chicken so that vegetables are encased inside, then place in a baking dish. Add white wine to the dish and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, removing aluminum foil when there are five minutes left to go. While chicken is baking, place lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover lentils with chicken broth, bring to a boil, stir gently, then loosely cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Photobucket

Disclaimers:
We were given 6 bottles of mustard by Saucy Mama/Barhyte Specialty Foods as participants in this contest. We were not otherwise compensated, and the recipe here, as well as any opinions expressed, are our own.
The winner of the GIVEAWAY will supply us with their contact information which we will send to Saucy Mama; GIVEAWAY prize will be shipped directly from Sauce Mama/Barhyte Specialty Foods.

2.25.2012

Heart to Heart Champagne and Romance Dinner Dance

Valentine's Day may have come and gone, but romance is forever, right? That's what Faith Middleton, public radio personality, host of the weekly food talk show The Food Schmooze, and local celebrity, would have us think. On Thursday, February 23rd, she hosted the Heart to Heart Champagne and Romance Dinner Dance, and we were there with fellow foodie friends L and C.

Mushroom duxelles in a parmesan cup

Pulled shortrib and taleggio grilled cheese

The candlelit night of luscious foods, fine wines, sophisticated company and live music (with dancing!) took place at Belle Terrace at Avon Old Farms, a historic inn in Avon, Connecticut. The space itself, perfectly elegant, exudes romance, and the incredible dishes created by Connecticut's finest culinary masterminds surely helped. Giddy from champagne (Pol Roger White Foil Brut) and passed hors d'oeuvres (like mushroom duxelles in a parmesan cup, and pulled shortrib and taleggio grilled cheese) set amidst elaborate flower displays, we took our seats and waited expectantly for more.


The table was lavishly set with five sets of silverware and countless wine glasses (always a good sign). Each setting also had little gifts - a bottle of hot sauce made by the folks at the Pond House, who were also resonsible for the delightful hors d'oeuvres, and a box of truffles from Carol Monnerat in Branford, CT. The band played, a couple of speeches were given, and the food started to arrive. Without further ado, we offer you our photos of the culinary splendors of CT:



Course One (not too bad for someone who despises mushrooms, nice sweetness and very creamy): from Deniz Yalim of Zula (Hartford): Mushroom Cappuccino, paired with 2010 Hugel Gentil.

Course Two (very tasty with good crunch and lots of lobster): from Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis (Simsbury): Metro Lobster Salad, paired with 2010 Rocca del Dragone Falanghina della Campania.



Course Three (plenty of crab meat, crunchy slaw, interesting green-hued wasabi cream): from Stefan Drago of Belle Terrace (Avon): Sesame Crusted Crab Cake, Nappa and Jicama Slaw, Mango-Wasabi Coulis, paired with The Connecticut Blue Blood Cocktail (a sweet-tart mixture of Absolut Berri Acai vodka, ginger liqueur, fresh lemon juice, honey syrup, and cinnamon dusted flax seed - shown being held by another guest at our table).

Course Four (the pastry was nice, but escargot are maybe an acquired taste?): from Arlene Ghent of 1249 Wine Bar (Waterbury): Escargot with Chanterelle mushrooms and white truffle cream, en croute, paired with 2010 Olivier Leflaive Les Settiles


Course Five (for most of the table, this was the winning dish: tender, juicy, loads of flavor and we loved that sliver of potato cake): from Manuel Romero of Ibiza (New Haven): Braised Short Ribs, Parmesan Potato Cake, Dark Beer Ginger Soy, paired with 2010 E Solo Montepulciano


Course Six (the most disappointing dish of the night, slightly overcooked and lacking seasoning): from John Brennan of Plan B (we never knew which one - it's a small chain): Petite Lamb Shank braised atop Black Truffle with Asiago Polenta, Roasted Shallots, Asparagus, and a Duet of Blood Orange and White Balsamic Reduction, and Pomegranate and White Balsamic Reduction, paired with 2009 Michel Torino Don David Malbec.

Dessert: (this one gets a big "Wow, this is a-MA-zing!"): from Jordan Stein at Pond House Cafe (West Hartford): Baby Banana Split: Maple Cream Gelato, Caramelized Baby Bananas, Sweet & Spicy Walnuts, Chantilly Cream, paired with choice of Churchill’s Tawny Port or Zebo Moscato



Incredible, right?

In addition to all that, the true romantics danced to the siren's song in between courses. Unfortunately, as we learned early on in our courtship, we don't dance well together; we both try to lead, which leads to much stepping-on-toes and tripping-over-hems, so we decided to remain spectators. Therefore, we spent most of the evening at the table revelling in the food and wine, two of our most favorite things.

As all things must, the evening slowly wound to an end. As we made our way out the door, satiated and smiling, a couple of guys from The Farmer's Cow (which just so happens to be our super-ultimate-favorite local dairy provider) gifted us a can of their brand-new coffee and quarts of their half-n-half for the following morning. Since it was a school night, and we didn't get home until about 11:15, we were happy to have them! Here's to wine and romance, even on a school night, and to the little bit of snow that caused a 2-hour delay of school opening the next morning.

2.21.2012

Mardi Gras Madness

Saturday night was our 9th Mardi Gras Madness party. Amy used to live in New Orleans, and misses it very much, especially around Mardi Gras. In an attempt to ease her (second)-homesickness, we started having a Mardi Gras party when we moved into our house. It has grown so much over the years that on Saturday night, we had (by our count) 101 people attend (including the two of us). And our house is only about 1400 square feet, so...yeah.

Mardi Gras consumes our lives for about 2 weeks every year. It's a lot of work to have that many people over! There's the buying and the prepping and the decorating and the cleaning, and since it's winter here, there's the building of "Tent City" - one assembled insta-tent under which the turkeys are fried, and one giant tarp covering our back deck to provide heat and warmth since not everyone can fit inside the house. Luckily, we have plenty of friends, family and neighbors who pitch in. Those that do are known as the "Krewe" and are given special krewe-beads, different ones each year, to honor their efforts. Special thanks to Krewe 2012!

But since you're reading our blog, you're probably more interested in the menu. Chris is in charge of the fried turkeys (this year, 90 pounds of it) and spends most of the night in the driveway where many of the guests watch in awe as each perfectly seasoned crispy fried turkey is lifted from the vat of hot peanut oil (right). It is quickly brought into the house to the carving station (a cutting board set on top of our washing machine) where one hard-working guest volunteers to do the honors. (Thanks, Chipper!) 


Amy makes a few other dishes, some appear each year, and others depend on her mood. One traditional dish is the Coca-Cola Ham, a spiralled ham cooked in cola and topped with a molasses-brown sugar-mustard glaze. Then this year she also made Pepper-Jack Gougeres (left); Bacon-Walnut Pralines; Muffuletta Pasta Salad with steamed shrimp; and in honor of our local moonshiners, Drunken Piggies in the Blanket (andouille sausage marinated in garlic mustard and Onyx Moonshine and wrapped in crescent dough). As we do every year, we provide the hurricanes (made with Pat O'Brien's Hurricane Mix of course) (this year, about 15 gallons' worth) and a little bit of beer and wine, soda and water. And enough Mardi Gras beads to go around. "Throw me somethin', Mister!"

You're probably wondering how that is enough to feed everyone? Well, it isn't, of course. That's the best part about our Mardi Gras party. Just about everyone brings a dish, and just about every dish is homemade. On Saturday, there was jambalaya, deviled eggs, shrimp cocktail, jalapeno-meat poppers, Cajun nacho dip, three-bean dip, Cajun meatballs, regular meatballs, mashed potato-stuffed tomatoes, chili cheese dip,     veggie pizza, stuffed peppers, American chop suey, stromboli, stuffed mushrooms, spicy mac-n-cheese, Buffalo wings, and much, much more. Then there was the desserts, which included paczkis, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, anise cookies with Mardi-Gras-colored frosting, brownies with walnuts, and plain brownies, among others.


People brought beer, wine, and liquor to share, consume, or offer as gifts. Awesome neighbor J, saint that she is, made 400 (that is not an exaggeration, but an actual number) purple, green and gold (well, yellow), Jello shots. Which are all gone. And her daughter, B, made us a delicious quiche for us to heat and eat the morning after.

There's always room for Jello shots!

Where are all the rest of the pictures, you wonder? Where's all the "food porn"? Amidst the chaos of prepping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, serving, hosting, drinking, eating and enjoying everyone's company, there just isn't any time for that. So, enjoy the few that we have, but you'll have to use your imagination (and yes, you can let it wander - it's Mardi Gras after all). Maybe next year we'll hire a photographer. Until then, laissez les bon temp rouler, and Happy Mardi Gras to all of you!

Louie and Newfie enjoy the festivities

2.20.2012

Roasted Garlic Soup (Secret Recipe Club)

It's February's Secret Recipe Club reveal day! In the Secret Recipe Club, members are assigned a food blog from which we are to choose and make a recipe, then we all blog about it and reveal our posts at the same time. Right now there are 212 members in the SRC; we are divided into four groups so that every Monday is a new reveal day. Since we're in Group C, today is ours, and the blog we were assigned is Heidis Verden (in English, it's "Heidi's World").

Heidi is from Denmark, and she loves to bake breads, cakes, ice creams and other desserts, but she also makes savory dishes of all kinds. Her blog is in Danish, but if you go to the page "Important: For Foreign Visitors!" you can find out how to view it in English (hint: it's much easier if you are using Firefox rather than Internet Explorer). Once we did that, we had a hard time choosing a recipe because there were so many and they all sounded so good. While we really wanted to try one of her ice creams, we thought we'd come back to those when it's a little warmer out. We didn't have a whole lot of time, so we chose not to bake anything. Since it was blustery and cold here, we zoomed in on the soup section and finally decided to make her Roasted Garlic Soup.

The most important ingredient: roasted garlic

We've made a similar recipe with garlic and potatoes, and were curious as to how this one would compare. We made a couple of minor adaptations based on what we had around the house, most importantly substituting madeira for Heidi's preference, sherry. The soup was fantastic, and even better when we had it again for lunch the following day. The texture was light, silky smooth yet it was completely filling and satisfying. The flavors from all of the alliums made it something that could be enjoyed year-round, and the madeira offered a unique hint of sweetness. There was a nice deep flavor that we guess came  from roasting the garlic first. We even surrendered offered a small portion to Joanne who pronounced it "restaurant-worthy" and wrote about it on her blog. Yeah, even with its garlic-breath side effect, we loved this soup. Thanks, Heidi!

Cook the roasted garlic, onions and leeks...


...until they look like this.


Add flour to thicken the soup.

Stir in the warm broth and madeira wine.

Blend


Swirl in the cream and allow to simmer.



Roasted Garlic Soup

Ingredients:

4 heads garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 leeks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup madeira wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
kosher salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top 1/4 inch of each garlic head. Place in a small, shallow baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until golden, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool slightly. Press the individual garlic cloves between thumb and finger to release, then chop the garlic. Pour the chicken broth into a small saucepan and set over medium heat to warm. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add garlic, leeks, and onion; saute until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Gradually add flour, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in warm broth and madeira. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree soup using an immersion blender. Swirl in the cream, then simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with lemon juice, salt and white pepper. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with chives. Serve crusty bread on the side and enjoy.



2.17.2012

"Festa Romana" at Bricco Trattoria, Glastonbury

Local celebrity Chef Billy Grant opened Bricco Trattoria in Glastonbury in 2010. Since then it has become, like his other restaurants, a Connecticut hot spot. At this particular location, Grant offers simple, fresh, polished Italian, from imported salumi and cheeses to housemade pastas and thin-crust pizzas. While the menu tends to change often, depending on season and availability of ingredients, last week there was a special menu offered for three nights only called "Festa Romana," to celebrate "the spirit of Rome." Since Rome is Amy's favorite place in the whole universe, how could we not go? We made it a double date with friends J and M, whom we don't see often enough, and what a great meal we had. Between us, we tried everything offered (each diner choosing one of the two choices per course), so here it is, with accompanying photos (which again, aren't great because they were taken on our phone...sorry). This was an authentic Roman meal that truly celebrated the spirit of Rome, which could be encompassed by the chef's favorite saying, "Eat and live well always."


PRIMI

Artichokes Fritti
with lemon, capers and parsley
Verdict: light, crispy, tangy, delicious



Braesola
with rocket arugula, EVO, parmigiano
Verdict: fresh, peppery, smoky, needed more cheese



SECUNDI

Spaghetti Vongole
with manila clams, parsley, garlic olive oil
Verdict: perfectly al dente, garlicky, very good


Sheeps Milk Ricotta Ravioli
with guanciale, San Marzano tomatoes, chilies
Verdict: fluffy, pillowy, luscious, we all wanted to lick the sauce off the plate,
the winning dish



TERZO

Whole Grilled Branzino
with fennel, radish and lemon
Verdict: flaky, flavorful, some inconsistencies in the cooking (overdone/underdone areas)



Veal Saltimbocca alla Romana
with proscuitto, lemon and sage
Verdict: perfect thinness, great flavor, really nice dish


IL DOLCE

Warm Chocolate-Filled Cornetto
Verdict: crisp, flaky pastry, but the chocolate inside was not melted,
the losing dish



Zuppa Englese Gelato with Biscotti
Verdict: creamy, delightful, perfectly Italian