Saturday, September 26, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 22

We are certainly swinging into more autumnal temps lately! I'm ready for some non-90 degree days, but I can do without the 40 degree mornings already. Fall DOES mean pumpkin though, and if you're a pumpkin fanatic like me, it's a very exciting time. Trader Joe's is stocked to the brim with new, seasonal items for fall, including this Speculoos Cookie Butter Beer that I couldn't resist trying. It was sweet, but surprisingly smooth. The spices were nice and not too overpowering. If you like interesting beer and love Speculoos, I recommend trying it out!


I was never a fan of Chicken Marsala, until I had good chicken marsala. Most restaurants cook the chicken to death and drizzle it with a too-thin sauce, so it has never been my bag. Then I found a recipe and made it at home and it opened my eyes to the beauty of this dish. I'll probably still never get it in a restaurant, but I make this at home quite frequently now. Unfortunately, as you've probably come to realize, I've become one of those home cooks that doesn't measure like she should and is vague with instructions. I'll do my best to tell you how I make this dish, but you can also find recipes online if you want to be more precise.

-1 TB olive oil
-2 chicken breasts (I prefer skin off but if you want crispy skin, by all means, get it with the skin on!)
-1 small shallot, diced
-8oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
-1/2 cup or so chicken stock
-1/2 cup or so Marsala wine
-1/4 cup or so white wine
-a few sprigs of thyme
-1 bay leaf
-dash of heavy cream
-cooked pasta or other starch to serve
-Parmesan cheese to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pound your chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap until they're about 1/2" thick and season with salt and pepper. Sear your chicken breasts for a few minutes on each side, until a nice brown crust appears. They won't be fully cooked, but remove them and put on a plate for now.

Using the same skillet, add your shallot and mushrooms and let cook a few minutes. Then pour in your stock, Marsala and white wine. Let this come to a boil and add your thyme and bay leaf. Continue to let this simmer, and add your chicken back in. Use a meat thermometer to tell when the chicken is done. The sauce will thicken and reduce, so feel free to add more liquid if things look a little too thick. When the chicken is done, remove the herbs and add a dash of heavy cream. Serve over pasta or any starch of your choice, and top with shaved Parmesan!

Chicken Marsala

From Dusk Til Dawn (1996) - I'm a big Tarantino fan, so this film has been on my list for a long time. It wouldn't be a Tarantino film without a few bloodbath scenes, and you don't have to wait long for the first one, which pops up about 5 minutes in. Q and George Clooney star as thieves on the run, heading to the Mexico border when an unassuming family get involved. What begins as an engrossing story with great character development kind of fizzles into a silly sci-fi tale with vampires. Big fan of the first half of the film.

Captain Phillips (2013) - This movie gives me anxiety! The film does a great job of making you feel as if you're truly there, with Captain Phillips (played by the always lovable Tom Hanks) and his Somali captors. Barkhad Abdi gives an incredible performance and was nominated for an Oscar for this, his first film ever. You'll want to look away, but you won't be able to. It's a thrill.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Farm to Fourth at Home

I love dining for a good cause. Winston-Salem's annual Farm to Fourth Fundraiser to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina followed the lead of many events this year, and went virtual. Farm to Fourth at Home still provided people the opportunity to taste some fabulous dishes from local chefs, and raise money while doing it. Chefs from The Katharine Brasserie, Spring House, The Porch, Providence and more prepared dishes. I wish there was an event like this once a quarter! 

I couldn't have been more impressed with the organization of the fundraiser - everything from the ease of picking up the meal, to the ability to re-heat items, to the outstanding quality of the food. I appreciated the cohesiveness of the meal too - there were Southern through lines (sweet potatoes, shrimp, sausage) and everything complimented each other well. To kick things off, we had a craft cocktail featuring Winston-Salem's Broad Branch Sungrazer Rum, Fire-Roasted Pineapple, Lavender, Ube Extract and Vanilla Bitters. This was a welcomed burst of flavors to the palate - subtle spice from the roasted pineapple and warmth from the vanilla - and it was a vibrant purple hue from the ube (which is a purple yam!) Quite slurpable.

Just look at that color!

Our first of two appetizers consisted of NC Shrimp and Sausage, slathered with a Hot Honey BBQ Sauce, roasted Purple and Orange Sweet Potatoes and a Candied Bacon Crumble. The shrimp were perfectly cooked (not easy for a take-home item!) and the sausage had a notable amount of heat, which I dug. It also provided a nice smoky flavor, to match the smokiness in the bacon. The sweet potatoes were tender and a nice echo from the starter cocktail. Shrimp, sausage and bacon, what's not to love?

Shrimp, Sausage and Sweet Potatoes

I flipped out at how delicious this next item was - Texas Pete Chicken Flautas. I am forever changed. It was like a cheesy chicken egg roll, stuffed to the brim so you weren't left with a bunch of excess tortilla. It was served with fresh pico that I could eat by the spoonful, and a spicy Texas Pete CHA sour cream. And the crispy shell maintained its crunch - again, not easy to do for a take home item!

Texas Pete Chicken Flauta with pico and spicy sour cream

A refreshing salad of Mixed Greens, Pickled NC Shrimp, Candied Pecans, Pearl Onions and a Honey Cider Vinaigrette was a welcomed break from the heat of the previous two dishes. This course was a substantial size and protein-packed from the shrimp and the pecans. I liked the acidity in the vinaigrette, too. And apologies - I didn't get a photo of this course, or of the flavorful bread from Bobby Boy Bakeshop, which was a hearty, artisanal whole wheat, with a ton of flavor and a nice chew on the crust.

Now onto the main events. Yes, plural. As if there hadn't already been enough delicious food! Beef lovers would rejoice at tender Short Ribs, accompanied by Bordelaise Sauce and Gremolata, but the Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin stuffed with Collard Greens, Smoked Gouda and Andouille Sausage stole my heart. This pork trio (bacon - pork loin - Andouille) was sensational, and the tangy collards broke up the richness. It's clear that a lot of time and effort went into this dish, and truly, every dish of the night. To accompany the proteins, we had another serving of those delicious, buttery collards and the best Sweet Potato Hash I've ever had. There was a Mexican flare, adding Corn and Black Beans to the mix, and a bright Cilantro Cream. YUM!

Pork Loin Roulade, Sweet Potato Hash, Collards

To round out the meal, and to get us excited for apple season, we enjoyed an Apple Almond Tarte with Spiced Vanilla Cream. Perfect for fall. The apples were thinly sliced and spread out beautifully over the not-too-sweet, almond-studded crust. This dessert, like most pastries, clearly took some time and thoughtfulness. I appreciated that it wasn't cloyingly sweet and used fresh apples - none of that canned, gloopy stuff. 
Apple Almond Tarte

Again, I wish there was something like this once a quarter. The team did a tremendous job of piloting this program at home. I can only imagine the logistics it took to manage all of this, and it was executed seamlessly. I look forward to the next one - in-person or at home - I know it will be a success.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 21

For me, summer isn't complete without a trip to the beach. This summer however, it proved to be quite difficult to try and figure out when and how to get to one. Finally, I booked a few days at Carolina Beach, and it was amazing to get a change of scenery, and one that included the ocean. There were very few people on the beach, and we had some pretty terrific weather. And I came home just in time for some 59 degree mornings, prepping me for fall!

My favorite view

I've always loved a Vodka Cream Sauce, and had never attempted one until recently. Homemade pasta sauce might be best, but a doctored up jar of tomato or marinara sauce also works just fine.

-1 jar tomato or marinara sauce
-a splash (or 2) of vodka
-a splash (or 3) of heavy cream
-1 box linguine or other long noodle
-protein, optional

Heat your red sauce in a large skillet and stir in your vodka. Let this simmer for a bit, so the alcohol cooks off. Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to package directions, and if you want to add a protein, get that ready. I sauteed some raw shrimp with olive oil and garlic, and then stirred that into the sauce, but you could also add in some cooked chicken, or even something like Kielbasa might work? Go crazy. Add the heavy cream, noodles and protein to the sauce and get everything coated. And then be prepared, it will be hard to go back to plain red sauce. 

Linguine and Shrimp in Vodka Cream Sauce

The Searchers - A friend and avid reader suggested that I watch this film, and I'm ashamed to admit, that it was my very first Western. This movie introduced me to the iconic, commanding on-screen presence that is John Wayne, and he does not disappoint. Wayne and a fellow cowboy head into the wild west, in search of his kidnapped niece. There are certainly some corny moments (it was filmed in 1956!), but there are several endearing ones as well. At times this film might leave you "searching" for depth, but it's a quintessential American Cowboy classic that will certainly entertain.

Desperados - Another Netflix rom-com that presents a silly plot, but wins you over by the end. Nasim Pedrad heads up a trio of gal pals who jet set to Mexico, to delete a manic email that accidentally got sent to her new boyfriend. This movie will make you want to be somewhere tropical with your friends, but about an hour and change in, you'll probably start to zone out. It might be a bit too long for its own good, but it's a welcomed escape from the real world.