CRISPY SPICY FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH

Sure, Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwiches have been around forever. But the past few years has seen a strange obsession with this fast food icon. The deal is, the Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich went from a drive-thru sensation to an upscale dining item. They’re everywhere now! And there are hundreds of variations. This one is pretty basic: a boneless chicken thigh marinated in a spicy buttermilk, then dredged in a spicy seasoned flour and deep fried. One of the things I did not do is drench the cooked thigh in hot sauce before putting it on the bun. I think that’s a bit counterintuitive, ie, making your nice crispy chicken thigh soggy, not to mention the soggy bun result. That’s just me, I guess. No matter how you like your crispy spicy fried chicken sandwich, they’re here to stay I think!

Ingredients:

Buttermilk marinade:

  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Louisiana Hot sauce
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed

Garlic Tarragon Aioli:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of black pepper

Seasoned flour:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprtika
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • 2 brioche burger buns
  • mayonnaise
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg
  • 2 slices tomatoes
  • Dill pickle slices

Directions:

  • Mix together the buttermilk with Frank’s hot sauce in a bowl. Add the chicken thighs to the buttermilk and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Heat oil to 350 degrees in a medium saucepan or skillet, at least 2 inches deep.
  • Set up a 2 bowl breading station. One for the buttermilk, one for the seasoned flour. Take a chicken thigh out of the buttermilk and dredge in the seasoned flour. Carefully place the breaded thigh in the oil and fry about 2-3 minutes on one side, then turn and repeat on the other side until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Place on a plate in the oven to keep warm while you cook the other thigh or thighs if making more.
  • To build the sandwich, lightly butter the buns then griddle to a golden brown on a flat griddle.
  • Spread some mayonnaise on the bottom bun then place 3-4 pickle slices. Add a cooked thigh. Top the thigh with shredded lettuce then a tomato slice. Spread the garlic tarragon aioli on the top bun and top the sandwich. Serve immediately.

MY CABBAGE SOUP RECIPE

We should have this more often than we do. I don’t know why we don’t…it’s easy as heck to make. When I say easy I mean really easy…put everything in a stock pot at once and simmer, covered, for 1 hour!

It really is a country rustic soup that helps us get back in line with out weight. I know some people who have this for every meal for several days and drop a few pounds.

You could do it in an Instapot, but you’ll need to cut down on the amounts as they are too much for the Instapot to handle safely. The bacon is optional but really does add a lot of flavor. Its rich savory tomato broth is light and slightly spicy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of white onion, diced
  • 1 cups carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 3 thick slices of bacon (optional)
  • 4 cups of cabbage, large dice
  • 1 cup haricot vests or green beans
  • One 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp crush red pepper flakes
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup Mr.and Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary Mix or tomato juice
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan or small stock pot. Mix together well and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Taste and reseason if necessary.

INSTAPOT PORK CHOP STROGANOFF

I love making Beef Stroganoff, usually from beef tenderloin and lots of onions and mushrooms. This recipe is very similar, but instead of beef tenderloin, it’s with bone-in pork chops. I also opted to make it in my Instapot, saving some time “slaving” over a huge skillet when we are in a heat wave!

Try to find bone-in chops at least 3/4 of an inch thick. When you “braise” them for 30 minutes in an Instapot, they become fork tender.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 bone-in pork chops
  • 1 1/2 cups white onions, quartered, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups whit mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, thin sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tsp demi-glace
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Bouquet garni – 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf wrapped in cheese cloth
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Chopped parsley
  • Cooked egg noodles or white rice or whipped potatoes

Directions:

  • Heat Instapot on Saute and completely dry the chops. Season chops with salt and pepper. Add to the Instapot and brown well on both sides. Remove chops to a plate.
  • Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of unsalted butter then add the onions and the mushrooms and saute, stirring, until the mushrooms lose their liquid and are beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the sherry and simmer for 1 minute. Add the stocks, the Demi-glace, the thyme, and the Worcestershire and bring to a simmer. Turn off Saute.
  • Add the bouquet Garni and submerge. Add chops back to the Instapot including any juices on the plate and seal the lid. Pressure cook for 30 minutes then let the pressure release naturally.
  • Open the Instapot and gently remove the chops to a plate as they will fall apart if not careful.. Remove bouquet garni and discard. Transfer all the contents to a skillet and bring to a simmer. Mix 1 tbsp of corn starch with 3 tbsp of cold water and whisk into the simmering sauce. Let the sauce simmer and thicken.
  • Stir in the sour cream and the Dijon. Whisk gently to incorporate the sour cream. Taste and reseason if necessary. Add the pork chops to the skillet and baste with the sauce until completely heated through, about 10 minutes.
  • Plate some of the sauce and mushrooms on a plate. Add some whipped potatoes then shingle a chop against it. Spring some more sauce and mushrooms on the pork chop. Garnish with chopped parsley and fresh cracked pepper.

INSTAPOT POBLANO CORN CHOWDER

Summer means lot of incredible fresh sweet corn. Cooked with fresh roasted poblano chile and leeks is a great combination for a Summer chowder that takes only a few minutes to make.

For pantry hacks, you can make this using a small can of diced green chiles and frozen corn. If you don’t have leeks, use a few green onions and a celery rib. Try to find fresh tarragon, there isn’t a substitution here without exceeding that great tarragon flavor profile. O.K., maybe some dry tarragon. Don’t tell my chef friends I told you that! Fresh is always best.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 medium poblano, roasted, skin and seeds removed, chopped
  • 2-3 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed, cobs reserved
  • 1 bya leaf
  • 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon, stems removed and reserved, leaves chopped for garnish
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, 1/2 inch dice, (about 1 1/2 cups) cooked al dente
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • Chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Set Instapot to Saute and add the butter to the pot. Add the chopped leeks and garlic and saute, stirring, for about 4 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper. Do not brown.
  • Add the corn kernels and the cobs, the chopped poblano, bay leaf, tarragon stems, and enough stock to cover the corn. Stir to combine. Seal the Instapot and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Discard the cobs, tarragon stems, and bay leaf.
  • Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the rest of the stock. Blend until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine metal sieve, pushing it through with a rubber spatula.
  • Transfer to a medium saucepan and add 1/2 cup of half and half. Taste and season with salt and white pepper. Add the cooked potatoes and heat through. Serve and garnish with fresh chopped tarragon and chopped chives.

OVEN-BRAISED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MUSHROOMS

A quick 55 minute braise in the oven makes these bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs fork tender. The chicken stock and sherry cooking liquid and sautéed mushrooms complete this elegant, weeknight meal. Serve it over white rice like I did or your favorite pasta…or just as it is with some crusty garlic bread to dip in the shallot and garlic infused sauce. That’s Cuba Libre behind it…just right!

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, excess fat trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Seasoning: 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/4 tsp crushed coriander seed
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, thin sliced
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 ounces of white mushrooms, halved or quartered if larger
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Chopped chives
  • Chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedge
  • Steamed white rice to serve

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix all the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Lightly rub thighs with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper then coat with the seasoning mix.
  • Heat a Dutch oven or other oven-proof brazier over medium heat and add 1 tbsp of olive oil. When the oil is near smoking, add the thighs without crowding and brown thoroughly on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove thighs to plate and set aside.
  • Remove all the oil from the pan and wipe out the pan. Place over medium low heat and add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter. Then add the mushrooms and cook, stirring and tossing, until the mushrooms release their liquid and are starting to brown. Add the shallots and garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
  • Pour in 1/2 cup of sherry or wine and simmer for 1 minute. Add the stock and lemon juice and simmer for another minute. Add the sprigs of fresh thyme then nestle the thighs back into the pan skin side up. Make sure the liquid doesn’t cover the thighs as this will make the crispy skin soggy.
  • Cut a circular piece of parchment paper the size of the pan and cut a 1 inch hold in the middle Place on the thighs and put the pan in the preheated oven. Cook for 55 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thighs reaches 165 degrees. Check halfway through the cooking to ensure there is still enough liquid, add more if needed.
  • When done cooking, turn off the oven, remove the parchment paper and discard. Place the thighs on a plate and back in the oven. Remove the thyme sprigs from the liquid and discard. Place the liquid and the mushroom in a small saucepan or bowl.
  • To serve, plate some cooked white rice on a plate then top with a chicken thigh. Spoon on some cooking liquid and mushrooms. Garnish with chopped chives and parsley.

SOUTHWESTERN SPICED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH A MUSHROOM PAN REDUCTION

Gotta love pork tenderloin. Very easy to cook and very tender if you don’t cook it too much. But, it really is a “blank canvas”, it doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own. So, it needs a good spice rub, a good brown in a skillet, and a nice pan reduction sauce. Here is my recipe for that.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, fat and silver skin trimmed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 ounces of white mushrooms
  • Olive oil
  • Unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry
  • 1 tsp demi-glace
  • Maldon salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Chopped parsley

For the spice rub:

  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:

For the mushrooms:

  • Slice the mushrooms in half or if they are larger in quarters. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook until all the liquid is released and they are getting slightly brown. Turn up the heat and add the sherry, bring to a simmer and reduce until most of the sherry is gone. Add the stock and 1 tsp of Demi-glace and simmer again to reduce by half.
  • Combine all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Lightly coat the tenderloin with olive oil then season liberally with the spice rub. Let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place an oven-proof skillet over medium high heat and add 2 tsp of olive oil. When the oil is smoking, add the tenderloin and brown thoroughly on all sides. Place in the preheated oven and roast until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees. Remove the skillet from the oven.
  • Place the skillet over medium heat and add 2 tbsp of cold butter. Place the thyme sprigs on the tenderloin. Start basting the tenderloin with the melted butter until the temperature reaches 135 degrees for medium rare.
  • Remove tenderloin to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil for at least 5 minutes.
  • Remove all the oil from the skillet and add the mushrooms and liquid. Cook, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Turn off the heat and swirl in 2 tbsp of cold butter. Let melt.
  • Slice the tenderloin into 1/2 inch slices and shingle on the board or a plate. Pour the pan liquids and mushrooms over the sliced tenderloin. Season with Maldon sea salt. Garnish with chopped parsley.

INSTAPOT BEEF SHORT RIBS

I enjoy cooking beef short ribs any manner of ways and methods, but this is one of my favorites. Also, I use boneless beef short ribs but I have used bone-in ribs and they are great as well. I trim the excess fat from the boneless ribs and it makes the dish a little more refined.

The basic method here was borrowed from Chef Thomas Keller…with a few adjustments of mine. Of course, the use of the Instapot rather than a 3-hour braise, but the rest of the ingredients are the same as Chef Kellers. He also marinates the meat, vegetables, and wine overnight before cooking them, I skipped that here. However, I do suggest leaving it in the fridge overnight after cooking, it brings so much more flavor out of the ingredients…like 2nd day pot roast! I served it over White Cheddar Polenta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red wine, I use Cabernet
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • Bouquet garni – 5 parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 10 peppercorns
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp demi-glace
  • Unsalted butter
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Maldon sea salt
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Heat Instapot on Saute and add 1 tbsp canola oil. Season the ribs with salt and pepper then dust lightly with flour. When the oil is hot add the ribs and brown thoroughly on both sides. Remove ribs to a plate. Drain the oil from the pot.
  • Add the wine and bring to a simmer to cook off the alcohol. Add the stocks and bring to a simmer and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the vegetables , Garni, and the beef. Seal the Instapot and pressure cook for 55 minutes letting the pressure release naturally. Put everything in a big bowl and cool in the refrigerator. When cooled, cover and leave overnight in the refrigerator.
  • The next day, skim any fat from the surface. Place everything in a saucepan and heat to warm it. Remove the Garni and discard. Remove the short ribs and set aside. Strain the liquid through a fine metal sieve or chinois. Place the liquid in a saucepan and heat. Add the Demi-glace and bring to a simmer.
  • Place a medium skillet over medium heat and add a couple ladles of liquid to the skillet. Place the ribs in the liquid, bring to a simmer, then start basting and reducing the liquid. Melt in 2 tbsp of cold butter and continue basting until the ribs are heated through.
  • To serve, plate on top of cream polenta or whipped Yukon Jack potatoes. Add fresh cracked black pepper and chopped chives.

GRILLED SALMON WITH PESTO CREAM SAUCE

This is one of the dishes that I think about eating long after I’ve made it. Of course it’s grilled salmon, which, by itself, is so good. By adding the creamy pesto sauce you elevate to a completely higher level. So simple, so clean, and so flavorful.

You certainly can start with a store-bought pesto sauce (Costco makes a good one), however, I will include my simple recipe for making your own Basil Garlic Pesto at home.

Buy skin-on or skinless salmon filets. I have used both, it doesn’t matter. When I cook the skin-on salmon, I serve it skin side down because we are not fans of salmon skin But the skin does add a great flavor element to the cooking process.

Serve it with a Orzo Rice Pilaf (shown) and some steamed vegetables and you have a great, healthy, low fat meal.

Ingredients:

For the pesto:

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Regianno Parmigiano

For the salmon:

  • Two 6-8 ounce salmon filets
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Fresh lemon wedges

Directions:

  • To the bowl of a small food processor, place the basil leaves and the garlic. Run on low for about 20 seconds, Push down the sides and run again for 10 seconds.
  • Add the toasted pine nut and run for 30 seconds.
  • Through the little hole in the processor lid, start adding the oil a little a time with the processor running on low.
  • When the oil is gone, add the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and run for about 10 seconds. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Now just mix in cream with a fork for basil pesto cream. Heat and serve over salmon or chicken. Spoon a little fresh pesto on top of the pesto cream.
  • You can store the pesto in a small, highly covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To freeze the pesto, pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze for two days. Then remove each cube and store in the freeze in a freezer bag.

SAUSAGE AND PENNE MARINARA

This has a fresh-made, chunky marinara with crumbled Italian Sausage. So bright and flavorful. It’s bright, not too heavy, and easy to make in about 30 minutes. I like to use link Italian sausage, remove the casing, and crumble into the pan. You can just start with ground Italian sausage if you prefer.

Penne works well because it is a tube pasta with ridges to hold the sauce. Use you favorite pasta or whatever you have on hand.

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces of dry penne
  • 2 Italian sausage links, about 6 ounces, casings removed
  • 1 cup white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled, smashed, thin sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • One 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • One 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Pinch of Black pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh chopped basil

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil and crumble in the sausage. Start browning the sausage and add the onions and green peppers. Cook stirring until the sausage is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and the rest of the seasonings. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
  • Drain the pasta and return to the saucepan. Stir in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add about 4 ounces of sauce to the pasta and toss. Add 1/4 cup of parmesan and toss again.
  • To serve, add some pasta to a pasta bowl then top with the sauce. Add grated parmesan and chopped basil.

INSTAPOT CHICKEN MARSALA

Traditional Chicken Marsala recipes call for pounded chicken breasts. I chose here to use small, boneless chicken thighs, and braised them in my Instapot. Thighs really have more flavor and are juicier than breasts, and they work well in Marsala. The rest of the ingredients are pretty faithful to traditional marsala recipes. About 18 minutes in the Instapot cooked them fork tender.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs of boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Flour
  • Olive oil
  • Unsalted butter
  • 4-6 ounces of white mushrooms, 1/4 inch slice
  • 3 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, thin sliced
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tsp demi-glace
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Season chicken with salt and pepper then dust with flour.
  • Heat Instapot on Saute. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Add the thighs without crowding and brown them on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove thighs to a plate.
  • Add 2 tbsp of butter to the Instapot then add the sliced mushrooms. Saute, stirring, for about 7 minutes until the mushrooms lose their liquid and start to brown. Add the shallots and garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the Marsala and bring to a simmer, stirring and scraping the bits off the bottom. Add the stock and continue scraping the bottom, bringing to the stock to a simmer. Hit Cancel on the Instapot.
  • Add the browned thighs back to the pot and nestle into the mushrooms and liquid. Seal the lid and set Pressure Cook to 18 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
  • To cook the rice, add 1 cup of jasmine or other long grain rice to a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt. Bring to simmer over high heat, then lower heat, stir the rice, cover, and cook about 12 minutes. Stir the rice a couple times. When rice is done, fluff with a fork, crack the lid, and add 1 tbsp of chopped parsley. Keep warm.
  • Remove lid and carefully remove the thighs to a plate with a slotted spoon, they will be very tender and may fall apart. Keep warm.
  • Pour all the liquid and mushrooms to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Mi the cornstarch into 2 tbsp or water in a small bowl. Add to the simmering sauce and let it thicken. Add the demi-glace. Cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and swirl in 1 tbsp of butter. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • To serve, plate some rice, then a chicken thigh, then the sauce and mushrooms. Garnish with chopped parsley