ONE SKILLET CHICKEN WITH LEMON ORZO

I love to cook bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Recipes abound and are only limited to your imagination.

This one is my take on One Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo. I use 50/50 Orzo and Jasmine rice as one change. And, crisping up the thighs during the last 15 minutes of cooking (start cooking covered then remove the lid) adds a different texture, especially when you’re using skin-on thighs. You can certainly use boneless, skinless thighs but the flavor won’t be as good.

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 2 lbs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, thin sliced plus more for zesting and juicing
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, thin sliced
  • 1 small shallot, thin sliced
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces orzo pasta
  • 4 ounces jasmine rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I use Chardonnay)
  • 1 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Dry the thighs thoroughly then season with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium to large, oven-proof skillet. When the oil is hot, add the thighs (do not crowd, do this 2 batches if necessary), and brown thoroughly (about 4 minutes per side) on both sides. Remove thighs to a plate.
  • Turn down the heat slightly and add the butter to the skillet. Add the lemon slices and brown them on both sides, about 1 minute preside. Remove to the plate with the chicken.
  • Add the slice leeks to the skillet and saute, stirring, for about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
  • Add the orzo and rice and stir for about 3 minutes until orzo begins to brown.
  • Add the wine and let simmer until it mostly evaporates. Stir in the stock, fennel seeds, lemon juice, and thyme sprig and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Nestle the browned thighs into the orzo/rice in the skillet. Top the thighs with the sliced browned lemons. Cover the skillet, place in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the lid of the skillet and allow the thighs to bake another 15 minutes until crispy and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Remove the thyme sprig from the skillet. Place the thighs on a serving platter and ladle the orzo/rice next to it. Garnish with the lemons and chopped parsley.

CARAMEL SALTED BROWNIES

These…are…thee…best…brownies…I’ve ever made!

I have tried countless recipes over the years. Countless scratch brownies recipes that ranged from pretty good to barely acceptable. And, this included the Betty Crocker and Duncan Hinds box mixes…which, by the way, we better than my scratch recipes!

This recipe topped them all. Not only does the mix use unsweetened baking chocolate AND 90% Cocoa Dark chocolate, it has a salted caramel topping that seals the deal. Butter instead of vegetable oil makes them nice and moist.

This is a “cake” brownie versus a heavy fudge brownie. But make no mistake, it is very decadent and rich.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 ounces of dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups flour

For the salted caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • Maldon sea salt for garnish

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish then line the dish with parchment paper letting the paper hang over the sides.
  • Using a stainless steel bowl over a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and let cool about 10 minutes.
  • Whisk the sugar and eggs in a mixer bowl until pale in color, about `1 minutes. Add the vanilla, salt, and melted chocolate/butter mix and whisk until combined. Add the flour, whisking until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread out smooth.
  • bake about 35 minutes until the brownies are set and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack.
  • For the salted caramel, stir together the sugar, 1/2 cup water, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Cook without stirring until it begins to boil and turns amber in color, about 10 minutes, Remove from the heat and immediately add the cream slowly, stirring constantly. Stir in the butter and salt and return to the medium heat. Simmer for 1 minute, allowing the caramel to thicken. Transfer to a bowl.
  • When the brownies are cool, lift them out of the the pan and place on a serving plate. Spoon some salted caramel on top. Cut into squares and garnish with flaking Maldon sea salt.

LEFTOVER TURKEY COTTAGE PIE

We love leftovers. We love casseroles. So, why not a casserole made with Thanksgiving leftovers? Cottage Pie…you know, the American version of Shepperd’s Pie using ground beef instead of ground lamb? So, why not a turkey version? And what better time to make this than the day after Thanksgiving!

Assuming you have the usual Thanksgiving leftovers, turkey, dressing, gravy, and mashed potatoes…let’s get to it! I also had some leftover corn with red bell peppers and it fit in just fine to this yummy Thanksgiving leftover casserole.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked turkey, diced
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup turkey gravy
  • 1 cup corn (if using)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 2 cups dressing or stuffing
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chopped chives or green onions

Directions:

  • Spray a 9×9 baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of butter. Add the onions and cook until they are softened. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the carrots, Worcestershire, gravy, and the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Add the dressing, corn, and chopped parsley and fold in to combine.
  • Spread the diced turkey, vegetables, and dressing mix on the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top. With a fork, make ridges over the top of the potatoes. Sprinkle on the cheddar cheese, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes until the the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees. Remove foil, raise oven temperature to 425, and bake until the cheese is lightly browned, another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped chives.

PILLSBURY CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS

This is a great Chicken and Dumplings hack for using leftover cooked chicken, like a rotisserie chicken. And, using Pillsbury Grande Biscuits for the dumplings makes it even easier. The dumplings are old-fashioned “roll dumplings” that cook up in the sauce in about 18 minutes. They puff up and become light and tender, not heavy.

It’s a cut down recipe for 2-3 people. It was perfect for the two of us…with leftovers!

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup carrots, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 cup onions, 1/4 inch diced
  • 1 cup celery, 1/4 inch bias slice
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, thin sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)

For the dumplings:

  • 1 can of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits
  • 2 tbsp chopped chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Place a medium skillet over medium low heat and add the olive oil and the butter. Then add the carrots, onions, mushrooms, and celery and saute, stirring, for about 6 minutes until the onions begin to get soft. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the stock and sherry and bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaf and thyme sprig. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, remove the biscuits from the can and separate into the 8 biscuits. Reserve 4 to cook per package instructions, and save for breakfast. Or, if doubling the recipe, use all of them as follows. With a roller, roll out the biscuits on a floured surface to 1/8 of an inch. Then, cut them into 1 inch wide pieces. Set aside.
  • After the vegetables have cooked, mix 2 tbsp of cornstarch into the cup of half and half. Make sure the sauce is simmering, as stir in the half and half with the cornstarch and stir as it cooks and thickens, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the cooked, diced chicken and peas to sauce and stir in. Add the biscuit pieces and make sure they are submerged in the sauce. Adjust the heat so the sauce just simmers. Cover and cook for about 16 minutes.
  • When the dumplings are cooked, they puff out to about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle the sauce with the chopped parsley and serve in bowls.

THE BEST BANANA BREAD

Loretta made the absolute best banana bread ever the other day!

After years of struggling to find the best combination of ingredients, she finally popped one out of the oven that had everything…most importantly, it was moist!

My wife hates to cook. We have a little sign in the kitchen that says, “I can cook…I just don’t” I do all the cooking in our little household, although recently I have cajoled her into doing one dinner per week, and, so far, she’s done a great job…with a little guidance from yours truly.

This Banana Bread recipe is lacking one thing that most others have, and that’s nuts. We just prefer to leave them out. I will included nuts as an option below.

Ingredients:

The bread:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas, about 2 large bananas
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts or more to taste
  • Pinch of salt

For the Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces our cream, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper cut large enough to hang over the sides. Spray with cooking spray.
  • For the bread part: In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer), add the egg, sugars, oil, sour cream, vanilla and mix with the paddle to combine for about 1 minutes scraping down the sides. Add the bananas to incorporate.
  • Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, crushed nuts if using), and salt and mix on low for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides and mixing a bit more. Add about half of the mixture to the loaf pan.
  • For the filling: In a large bowl, add all the filling ingredients and whisk to combine or use a hand mixer.
  • Carefully pour the filling into the loaf pan down the middle of the batter, leaving a 1 inch border around the edge. Pour in the remainder of the batter and smooth with a rubber spatula.
  • Bake for about 40-50 minutes, checking with a tooth pick at 40 minutes, it should come out dry.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Lift out of the pan using the excess parchment paper and place on the rack to finish cooling.
  • Slice and serve with butter.

BROCCOLI CHEESE CASSEROLE

This can be a great Thanksgiving side dish as well as a main dish. In this case, I served it with my Pork Medallions with Mushrooms and Sherry (recipe follows this one on my blog)

I cut this recipe in half and used a 9×9 baking dish instead of the 9×13 the full recipe calls for. It uses arborio rice (the kind used for risotto), but any good short grain white rice will work. I put it together ahead of time the baked it later, a great convenience for Thanksgiving. You could even assemble it the night before and keep it in the refrigerator.

The rice is cooked in a saucepan about half way, if you don’t do this it may turn out too mushy after baking.

This recipe easily serves about 4 people and makes great leftovers the next day. The pork medallion recipe precedes this one on the blog.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup arborio rice (or any other short grain rice)
  • 1/2 lb broccoli florets, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, thin sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp granulated onion
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup sour cream

Directions:

  • Place 1 1/2 cups of water in a large saucepan over high heat. Season the water with 1/4 tsp salt. When the water is boiling, add the rice, lower the heat, cover, and cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 8 minutes, add the broccoli florets and cover. Cook another 5 minutes. Drain the rice and broccoli through a fine wire sieve and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Wipe out the same sauce pan and place over medium low heat. Add the butter and the onions an saute until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic for another minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the flour and stir, cooking for about 1 minute. Whisk in the stock then the milk and bring to a simmer letting it thicken slightly.
  • Add the spices and stir to combine. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring.
  • Add the 2/3 of the grated cheddar and sour cream and stir to combine.
  • Add the cooked drained rice and broccoli and fold in completely.
  • Spray a 9×9 baking dish with cooking spray then add the broccoli and cheese mixture, distributing the broccoli florets evenly. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle on the remainder of the grated cheddar and cook another 12 minutes until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

PORK MEDALLIONS WITH MUSHROOMS AND SHERRY SAUCE

This recipe uses whole pork tenderloin although you could just as well use whole pork loin, it just may not be as tender.

One of the key elements is cooking the mushrooms properly. Take your time, cook them slow, and let them caramelize, releasing all their liquid. Try to use a stainless steel pan (not non-stick) so the you get some nice brown bits on the bottom for flavor.

I served it with Broccoli Cheese Casserole, the recipe follows this one on my blog.

Ingredients:

  • About 1 lb of whole pork tenderloin, sliced into 1 1/2 inch thick medallions
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 ounces of cremini or white mushrooms, 1/4 inch slice
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions:

  • Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Then add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid and they have become golden brown. Season with salt and pepper remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Heat the cream in a small saucepan and let reduce slightly (by 1/4). Heat the stock in a separate saucepan.
  • To the same saucepan as the mushrooms over medium heat, add 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter. When the oil and butter is hot, add the pork medallions and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes per side, then brown the sides as well. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
  • Add the sherry to the pan and let boil for a few seconds, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the cream then add the stock and simmer for a minute, stirring.
  • Add the browned mushrooms to the pan and cook on low heat for about 3 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • To serve, spoon some sauce and mushrooms on a plate then add the cooked medallions. Garnish with chopped parsley.
  • Serve with rice pilaf or a favorite side dish. I served this with Broccoli Cheese Casserole (recipe post follows this post).

CREAMY FRENCH POTATO LEEK BISQUE

Leeks are so under appreciated, don’t you think? I mean, onions get top billing all the time…and a leek or two would raise the bar in so many recipes instead of onions. Just don’t forget to wash out the dirt from between the leaves!

Potato Leek soup is unabashedly simple to make but is such a welcome lunch on a cold winter day. Serve with a little dollop of sour cream, diced cooked bacon, chopped chives, and croutons, or, wait for it…cooked chopped tater tots.

Chef’s note: To make this soup really smooth and creamy, it’s essential that after blending, you strain it through a fine wire mesh sieve. It is a refinement method that is used in French cooking all the time and is worth the effort.

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green part only, thin sliced
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, thin sliced
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup cream
  • Croutons or cooked tater tots
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook until bacon has rendered and cooked but not crispy. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
  • Remove most of the bacon fat. Add 2 tbsp butter and the leeks and saute, stirring, just until they have softened. Do not fry or brown. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Season with salt and white pepper.
  • Add the stock, thyme sprig, and the potatoes and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover, and cook about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. Remove the thyme sprig and bay leaf. Let soup sit and cool for about 10 minutes.
  • With an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine wire sieve. Return to the saucepan and add the cream and reheat. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Serve with croutons or chopped tater tots, chopped bacon, a small dollop of sour cream, and chopped chives

SEARED SCALLOPS WITH CREME D’ECHALOTE

Literally, Seared Scallops with Shallot Cream, a French cooking dish I have been meaning to try for a long time. The sauce takes 90% of the time, but is well worth the effort. It’s a wine, shallot, tarragon reduction finished with cream and butter.

Try to make sure they are dry-packed Sea Scallops. Although they are not actually “dry”, they’re just not stored in any kind of brine or chemicals. For the searing, make sure they are totally dried with paper towels and are at room temperature at cooking time. This will ensure a good sear.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dry tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Fresh lemon wedges

For the scallops:

  • 5-6 scallops
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Place the wine, shallots, tarragon, and crushed black peppercorns in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and reduce until most of the liquid is gone.
  • Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer, reducing by half. Add the butter cubes a few at a time and whisk into the cream. Continue adding and whisking until all the butter is emulsified into the wine. Strain through a fine metal sieve into another small saucepan.
  • Add the butter cubes a few a time and, over low heat, whisk into the cream. Continue until all the butter is gone and the sauce is emulsified. Squeeze in about 1/2 tsp of red lemon juice. Taste and season with salt. Keep warm while you sear the scallops.
  • Season the scallops with Kosher salt and a little black pepper. Place a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has stopped foaming, add the scallops, large side down, and let cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. Do not turn while they are cooking. When they are nice and seared, turn and cook another 1 minute or so on the other side. Do not overcook or they will become tough.
  • To serve, spoon some of the sauce on a plate and place the scallops seared side up on the sauce. Sprinkle a little paprika and chopped chives and serve immediately.

OVEN-FRIED CRISPY BUFFALO CHICKEN THIGHS

These chicken thighs are made exactly the same way I make Buffalo Wings in the oven. I will also include how to cook them in a Power XL Airfryer. They don’t work well in a 1st generation air fryer with a small basket, they require being cooked on wire racks. So, in the oven or in the air fryer, they come out crispy and buffalo-wing-spicy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds (about 6) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp conrstarch
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cayenne, and 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic

Directions:

  • Place the salt, cornstarch, baking powder, and seasonings in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Pat dry the thighs with paper towels. Place them in the bowl with the salt, cornstarch, baking powder, and seasoning mix and coat the thighs thoroughly on both sides.
  • Line a sheet pan with foil then place a wire rack on it. Spray the rack with cooking spray. Lay the chicken thighs on the rack and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  • When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. For air frying, preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees.
  • Place the sheet pan and thighs in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Or, in the air fryer for 40 minutes. There should be no need to turn the thighs in the Power XL as they will cook evenly on both sides. For the oven method, turn the thighs and return to the oven for another 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees and the chicken is golden brown and crispy.
  • Heat a small saucepan over medium low heat and add the butter, hot sauce, and granulated garlic until the butter has melted.
  • When the chicken is done, place the pieces in a large mixing bowl and toss with the hot sauce and butter mixture until coated. Serve immediately like hot wings with blue cheese dressing and a chopped salad.