It’s that season where I just slide open the patio door and turn up the grill. Even though the weather is trying to find its season. I really love smoked flavor, and have experimented with various ways throughout the years to replicate it, without a proper smoker. The other day at Home Depot, I just gave in and made Certain Someone purchase a Weber Smoker Box and bag of pecan wood. It will have to do until I convince him to get me the Big Green Egg, which I’m coveting after using at a clients home. I’m patient. The smoker box really is effective and proves you can get great flavor with a gas grill. It’s just about technique.
Here is a quick and easy idea for a twist on the usual standard dinner fare. I’m not a big fan of skinless boneless chicken breasts, but utilize them occasionally in cooking. I always have some puff pastry in the freezer left over from catering. This particular evening I had some frozen béchamel sauce I had leftover from making lasagna. As a chef I save as much I can in the freezer to repurpose later in another dish. “Waste not , want not” especially with food costs soaring. Some frozen broccoli, béchamel, chicken breasts, Dijon mustard, and Gouda make for an easy elegant stunning meal. I called these galettes which we normally associate with a free from sweet pastry. Why not savory? The chicken breast stays tender as it cooks up in the creamy sauce and puff pastry. Be sure to use a thermometer to check chickens doneness without compromising the presentation before serving. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165-175 F . Here is quick link for Béchamel , a mother sauce that should be in your repertoire.
- Chicken breasts
- Thawed frozen Puff pastry sheets to equal amount of chicken pieces
- 2 cups Béchamel sauce ( see link in post)
- 1 cup grated Gouda
- 2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
- 1 cup frozen broccoli
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 1 egg beaten for pastry wash
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare you béchamel. Add grated gouda and broccoli. Let sit for 20 min until a little thickened and cooler before assembly.
- Preheat oven to 375 F
- Line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper .
- Place a chicken breast atop a piece of puff pastry on the sheet pan.
- Add a few tablespoons of thickened cooled sauce and quickly wrap to seal. Brush with egg yolk.
- Reheat Béchamel with chicken stock.
- One galetttes are browned and chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165-175 F , remove from oven.
- Serve hot with more sauce ladled over the pastry.
In other news this has been an amazing week as I go through some career transformations and validations. An illustration I did a while ago and forgot about for my former employers contest, was picked up and reposted on the Cosmetic Brands IG page! For me this is a huge validation of my creative talents and skills .
It’s been a good bit of time since I last posted. In that time I’ve been traveling, working, catering, celebrating and creating recipes . Unfortunately it just hasn’t made it to the blog. Where to begin?
First Certain Someone spent a lovely week at Half Moon in Montego Bay to celebrate a friends wedding. It was the best experience Ive ever had in Jamaica. Imagine your own luxury villa, butlers, maids, sunshine, private beaches, and just being spoiled. We really needed it. We will heading to Portugal and Sweden soon for another destination wedding, and to catch up with family and friends.
I’ve been getting some great catering gigs from consulates, a European airline carrier, and just overall great clients. I’m so happy the word is spreading about Coco Cooks.
And last before we get onto the food. Certain Someone turned 40! We decided to have a belated birthday party at the house in July ( In the fashion of the Queen), as its hard to coordinate everyone’s schedules.
I made the whiskey bottle cake, and commissioned the label and cigar from a great friend who has amazing talent. Check her out if you need customized toppers for your cakes.
Now onto the recipe! Yes it another Old El Paso post. I was commissioned to do a total of 12 recipes for them, which are figured on their new website. While I don’t normally use prepared ingredients, I’m not naive enough as chef and career woman, that sometimes shortcuts and convenience are OK, especially when paired with fresh ingredients and creativity. Not everyone has the time nor inclination to make there own spice blends, salsa, tortillas, etc. So accepting the assignment and the challenge , where what motivated me. I love a challenge to think out the box. It’s grilling season and one can create all sorts of good things on the grill, or on an indoors grill, it you don’t have a gas or charcoal grill. I love the sight of grill marks . Check out the recipe and other great ones on the site.
- For Cabbage Mango Slaw
- ½ head of small green cabbage sliced thinly or grated.
- 1 carrot skinned and grated
- 1 mango chopped into small pieces( no skin)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ⅛ cup brown sugar
- ⅛ cup balsamic vinegar
- ⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pineapple sliced
- 2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs.
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Old El Paso Hard and Soft Taco Kit.( Contains taco shells, soft tortillas, Taco Seasoning, and Taco Sauce)
- Preheat oven to 320°.
- In a glass dish or bowl marinate chicken with 1 packet of the Old El Paso Seasoning and 2 tablespoons olive oil contained in kit.
- In a small bowl add grated cabbage, carrot, chopped mango, cilantro, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. Mix thoroughly and set aside while grilling chicken.
- Using an indoor or outdoor grill, preheat to higher setting to obtain a good sear.
- Wrap the soft tortillas in the kit in foil and place in oven. Heat for 10 minutes.
- Add chicken to grill and cook several minutes on each side until done.
- While chicken is grilling, place hard tacos shells on a placing sheet and add to the oven with soft tortillas. Don’t overcook. Turn off oven after 5 more minutes and keep warm till serving.
- Remove chicken from the grill and let reat a few minutes.
- Add pineapple slices to hot grill and sear on both sides for a few minutes. Remove from grill.
- Slice chicken on the diagonal and serve on platter with chopped grilled pineapple slices.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro.
- Serve with cabbage mango slaw, soft and crunchy tortillas, and sauce contained in the kit.
Since I started catering on my own as Coco Cooks,I’m obsessed with presentation. The challenge is to provide high flavor and appeal, low-cost, but not sacrifice taste. Summer is coming and I have some events lined up. An inexpensive option for passed appetizers is always a tasty chicken wing. 100 wings can be cut down into 200 pieces easily. But how can I make it more highbrow , than low brow? Lollipop them! In catering or restaurants starters are either cleverly skewered or lollipop-ed. It’s easy to pick up, and not messy. One or two bites and your guest is done, with your server tastefully moving away the small remains left behind. Not to mention the variations in sauces and cooking applications.Spicy, sweet, sour, dry, wet, fried,smoked, baked, etc. The list is endless. You just need a good small sharp knife or poultry shears .
The boning of the chicken wing is most intimidation part. But with a few receptive actions, you will get the hang of it and the work will go swifter. I would be at a loss without my Wusthof Kitchen Shears. They make quick work and cut through bone in seconds. Much easier than sawing or chopping with a knife.
- 12 whole wings , prepped into 24 lollipop pieces.
- Kosher Salt
- Ground Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 jar of plum sauce found in Asian specialty sections
- 2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
- ⅓ cup toasted sesame seeds.
- Sesame Oil
- To Prepare the wing you need to:
- Cut off the wing tip of the chicken wing with your shears or knife.( Tip... Don't discard the wing tips, but save and freeze for chicken stock.)
- Now cut at the joint between the drumette and the center part, the forearm with wither shears or very sharp knife. You now have two pieces.
- Take the drumette and using a small sharp paring knife,slash and loosen the skin at the joint , from the bone. Gently scrape the flesh down and off the bone to push towards the top of the drumette. Leaving the skin on or off is optional. You should have the bone exposed and relatively clean of flesh or tendons. The meat slides back easily once loosened at the joint. Trim off any excess fat or skin you don't want.Set aside and store on ice until ready to cook.
- For the forearm loosen and slash the flesh at the base of the joint as before. Pinpoint the smaller of the two bones. Gently push back and loosen the meat away from the smaller bone. The meat will also start to slide of the larger bone. With your shears or knife cut the smaller bone at the top of the forearm. Carefully push back your meat. Again, to use or not the use the skin is optional. Trim off any excess skin or fat.
- Keep all meat chilled or on ice until ready to cook.
- Pre heat oven to 425 F
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Season wings with Kosher salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder.
- Place the prepped lollipop wings on the paper. Try to sit upright and leave skin, if any exposed, to crisp and brown.
- Bake for approx 30 minutes or until starting to brown.
- In a dry skillet , add the sesame seeds and lightly toast until just golden. Don't burn. Remove from heat quickly.
- In a small dish mix the plum sauce and fish sauce.
- Remove chicken when browned from the oven .
- Carefully dip the lollipops into the plum sauce . Try not to get onto the exposed bone ,as it will become sticky for guests.
- Place the dipped chicken back on the baking sheet and finish baking for another 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with tasted sesame seeds.
- Drizzle with Sesame oil.
- Serve hot.
So I did it! For a while I’ve been eying the newly svelte Jennifer Hudson pitching for Weight Watchers. I resisted.I hate counting calories and points just seemed so complicated. I mean I love food and I love to cook. Therefore I hate diets.A few years ago I tried a home delivery service and the food was awful. I didn’t want to go on some other well-known programs because I hate processed foods. Weight Watchers seemed to be the only solution, where I could cook and have fun developing recipes. Most of you know I’m pretty much an open book and will share my joys and sorrows . Not being ashamed of the fact of what I was doing, I was surprised when many of my friends contacted be both publicly and off-line that they have had tremendous success with Weight Watchers. One food blogger friend revealed to me she lost 100 lbs in a year. All the success stories I heard motivated me more , as this seemed actually doable, and without depriving myself of anything.
So naturally I’m cutting back on fat, not entirely, as I believe fat carries flavor, but healthy fats and in moderation.I’m playing around with adding bulk and volume to my foods off the Power Foods list ( foods low in points that give you more fuel throughout the day). When I’m hungry mid day I reach for a banana, which surprisingly has zero points to satisfy both that sweet and creamy texture urge. So far so good, and on week 3 , I have lost over 5 lbs. The second week was challenging as we had several social functions with great food and alcohol, but I was able to indulge in moderation. Thank goodness for my Iphone app, where I plug-in foods and receive their values. Who knew a Screwdriver is the cocktail with the lowest points?
Sometimes I post some recipes to the community pages. The Farro with Turkey Kale and Sun dried Tomatoes was a very successful one that both Certain Someone and I enjoyed. I actually tea smoked my own turkey breast to use for the week and throw it into several recipes. The smoking adding a depth of flavor. For this recipe you can use regular roasted , cooked turkey breast.
- 1 pound(s) cooked turkey breast
- 1 cup(s) cooked leek(s)
- 1 cup(s) Kale
- 2 cup(s) sun-dried tomatoes (without oil)
- 2 cup(s) cooked farro
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Boil Farro to package instructions and reserve
- Drain Julienne your Kale.
- Weigh and chop your turkey breast, tomatoes.
- In a non stick pan spray your non stick cooking oil.
- Add your leeks and kale and stir fry for a few minutes on med high
- Add your tomatoes and continue to stir and cook over med high heat.
- Vegetables should start to caramelize a bit.
- Add the turkey. Continue to cook.
- Lastly add the cooked Farro and stir fry for a few more minutes .
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
The winner of the Creminelli giveaway is Jen from The Whole Kitchen. Congratulations Jen!