Spicy Honey Walnut Chicken

I'm typically not much of a honey lover.  However, I happened upon this spicy version of honey at Magnolia Emporium a few months ago called MIke's Hot Honey.  I used it in a shrimp recipe that received rave reviews.  I decided to see what I could create with chicken.  Keep in mind you could substitute the chicken with shrimp, pork, salmon or even beef.  

Spicy Honey Walnut Chicken

Spicy Honey Walnut Chicken

Start by creating a marinade for your chicken...I used organic chicken tenders that I cut into pieces.  In a bowl, combine 3 TBLS of Mike's Hot Honey, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 to 3 TBLS of paprika, a few dashes of hot pepper flakes, 3 to 4 cloves of minced garlic, 2 TBLS of orange blossom honey, the juice of one lemon, and salt/pepper.  Add the chicken and allow to marinate for an hour or longer, if you have the time.  

 

Chicken with Marinade

Chicken with Marinade

While the chicken is marinating, prepare you favorite rice.  I used Jasmine rice for this recipe. Next, take about 3/4 pound of fresh green beans, cut off ends and chop into 1" pieces.  When chicken is ready, heat a cast iron skillet to medium high with about 1 tsp of coconut oil.  Add the green beans and sear for about 4 minutes.  They should turn slightly golden brown, but still have that snap. Remove green beans and reserve.  To the same pan, add about 1 Cup of walnuts and brown for about a minute...be sure to watch these carefully and keep stirring. Nuts can burn easily.  Remove nuts from pan and reserve with the green beans.

Once the walnuts have been removed, add the chicken with the marinade to the cast iron skillet and brown until chicken is fully cooked and marinade has carmelized.  This should take about 6 to 8 minutes.  

Once chicken is fully cooked, add back the green beans and walnuts...toss to heat through and serve on top of your cooked rice and ENJOY!

Chicken Parmigiana

One of my favorite dishes to order at any Italian restaurant...Chicken Parmigiana.  You may think this is a difficult and time-consuming recipe to prepare.  It is not...in just a little over 30 minutes, you will have a juicy and crunchy chicken parmigiana recipe that you will want to prepare again and again.  Feel free to substitute veal or even shrimp.  You will love this recipe I created!

Chicken Parmigiano

Chicken Parmigiano

I have to admit that I do take one very little short cut...I typically do not make my own marinara.  I have found two that I love and are just as good as homemade.  I combine a small container of Pasta & Provisions Marinara Sauce (can be purchased at The Carolina Fish and Food Market or at any Pasta & Provisions locations) with 1/2 jar of Mario Batali's Marinara Sauce and a touch of olive oil in a saucepan and heat to medium-low.

Take two boneless chicken breasts and pound evenly to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Season with salt/pepper. In a freezer bag, add 1 Cup of flour and season with salt/pepper.  In a bowl, beat two eggs with 1 TBLS of milk. In a separate bowl, combine 2 Cups of seasoned breadcrumbs with 1/2 Cup of Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 Cup of rice flour (the rice flour makes the chicken super crunchy and allows the chicken to stand up to the sauce).

Heat to medium-high enough canola oil in a nonstick frying pan just to cover about 1/2 the thickness of the chicken breast. Place the chicken breasts in the flour, zip and shake to coat. Take one piece of chicken out of the bag, shake off any excess flour and place in egg mixture. Coat both sides then dip in the breadcrumb mixture...be sure to cover both sides.  I typically double-dip.  Add the breaded chicken back to the egg mixture then back in to the breadcrumbs.  Repeat the steps above with the second piece of chicken.

Add to heated oil and flip when one side turns golden brown.  Once both sides are browned, place on paper towels to remove any excess oil.  Prepare a glass baking dish by spraying with nonstick spray and add a thin layer of the heated marinara to the bottom.  Place chicken in dish and cover each piece with a generous amount of sliced provolone cheese.  Top the cheese with additional sauce.  Cover and bake on 350 for about 10-12 minutes.  Uncover and allow cheese to brown...about another 5 minutes...2 minutes if you turn on the broiler.  Top with chiffonades of basil. Serve with your favorite pasta mixed with the remaining marinara...I usually add a touch of heavy cream to the remaining sauce just for an added richness.  Serve and Enjoy!

Homemade Turkey Gravy

For me, Thanksgiving comes only once a year.  So, when I prepare the meal, I take very few short cuts.  Gravy, to me, has to be rich and thick and definitely homemade.  You can prepare this recipe the day before and finish right before you serve.  After you taste this gravy, you will wonder why you ever bought gravy from a jar.  Thanks to my Momma!

In your local grocery store, search for either turkey thighs, wings, legs or a combination thereof.  I used turkey thighs for this recipe.  Heat to a medium high, 2 TBLS of butter and a TBLS of olive oil in a pan.  Season your turkey thighs with salt/pepper on both sides.  Dredge the thighs in a dusting of flour and add to the pan.  

Turkey thighs...

Brown both sides very well.  Be sure not to burn.  When turkey has browned, add 1/2 box of turkey or chicken stock.  I used turkey stock.  Start scraping the browned bits then turn heat down to medium to medium low.  Add about 4 whole stalks of celery.  Cover and allow to simmer for about an hour until the turkey is fully cooked.  Check about half way through and add a touch more stock if needed.  

Once the turkey is cooked, remove from pan along with the celery and discard.  Strain the liquid through a wire strainer twice.  I do this to ensure that no tiny bones are left in the gravy. Once strained, add liquid back into pan and scrap sides.  In a small bowl, make a cornstarch slurry.  Add about 2 TBLS of cornstarch to about 1 1/2 TBLS of liquid.  I used turkey stock as my liquid.  

Grab a whisk.  Turn heat up to medium high and slowly pour the cornstarch slurry in a little bit at a time.  You may not use the entire amount.  Whisk really fast as you are pouring in the slurry, so as to avoid lumps.  You will notice the gravy starting to thicken and become rich. Once the gravy has reached the desired consistency, no need to add more slurry.  Go slow with the slurry and fast with the whisk and be patient.  Turn off heat and serve with your homemade mashed potatoes and stuffing.  If you want to prepare the day ahead, cool down mixture after turkey is cooked then place entire pot in fridge.  In the morning, scrap off any excess fat, reheat, strain and follow up with the slurry.  

 

My Grandfather's Stuffing (Dressing)

Thanksgiving for me is typically the only time of year that I make this amazing stuffing recipe. This recipe was handed down to me from my Mother who still has the handwritten recipe from my Grandfather.  Even though I never got to physically meet him, when I make this, it makes me feel nostalgic and close to him.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  It is definitely an old school preparation and takes time to prepare, but it is so worth it in the end.  

Start by browning one package of Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage.  While the sausage is browning, you want to start toasting 1 and 1/2 loaves of white bread.  I use a combination of the toaster and oven to speed up the process.  Once the bread has been toasted, start pulling it apart into pieces in a large deep bowl.  

Once the sausage has browned, remove from pan, drain any excess grease and place, in batches if you have to, in a food processor.  Pulse only about three times to break up the sausage.  Do not turn into a paste.  Should looks something like this when you are done processing.  

Cut three stalks of celery into tiny bits.  I am all about knife cuts and tend to like my veggies, in this preparation, cut really small.  Do the same with about 1/4 of a small white onion.  Feel free to add more onion if you would like.  I just do not like the onion flavor to overwhelm this dish. In the pan you browned the sausage, remove any remaining grease and add one stick of salted butter and the veggies.  Allow to soften for about 5 to 8 minutes...do not brown.  

Once the celery and onions have softened, add 2/3 of a box of stock to the pan.  I use turkey stock, but feel free to use chicken or even vegetable stock.  Allow to cook for a few minutes then add back the browned sausage.  The mixture does not look that appealing at this point, but I promise you...it will be fantastic!

Mixture of celery, onions, stock and sausage...

Mixture of celery, onions, stock and sausage...

Add about 2 TBLS of dried parsley to the bowl with the toasted bread, then pour the stock mixture on top and start combining. The best way I have found to do this, is with your clean hands.  Mixture should not be dry at this point...if it is just add a bit more stock and mix.  Allow the mixture to cool just enough to add one beaten egg.  Do not add the egg while it is too hot or it will scramble.  Mix the egg into the mixture.  You can then form into balls, place in buttered dish and bake on 375 for about 15 minutes and/or stuff your turkey.  I usually make both for Thanksgiving!  

Spicy Honey Shrimp with Shaved Brussel Sprouts

I love creating recipes with super fresh ingredients.  I love it even more when I am unsure about the combination of ingredients and it turns out to be amazing.  Who would ever think that shrimp and brussel sprouts can be combined to make one incredible dish?  Here it is...and you are going to love it!

Start with 1 lb. of high-quality shrimp.  Of course, I got these beauties from The Carolina Food Market. These fresh, local NC shrimp are 16/20 count, uncooked, peeled and deveined.  You can purchase the majority of these ingredients from The Carolina Food Market.  I love the convenience of one-stop shopping this market now has to offer.  

Place the shrimp in a bowl.  Season with coarse salt and pepper.  Add 1 1/2 TBLS of Mike's Hot Honey, (see website for retail locations).  I purchased mine at the fabulous Magnolia Emporium. Add 1 1/2 TBLS of orange blossom honey, 5 to 6 cloves of minced garlic, 2 TBLS of paprika, and about 1 to 2 TBLS of olive oil.  Allow the shrimp to marinate in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Feel free to add more/less of the above ingredients.  I am not one to measure much, so if I think it needs more honey, paprika, etc., I just throw it in.  It should look similar to this:

Take about 20 brussel sprouts, cut off ends and slice.  I make about three slices per sprout. Once sliced, break apart.  Heat a cast iron skillet with a touch of olive oil to medium-high. Place brussel sprouts in pan and start to brown.  Do NOT BURN!

It takes about 8 minutes for the brussel sprouts to brown.  Keep and eye on them and continue turning them as they are browning.  Once browned, add the shrimp with the marinade.  Turn down the heat just slightly.  Shrimp will start to turn pink and the marinade with begin to caramelize.  Continue to stir, so as not to burn.  It should only take about 3 to 4 minutes for the shrimp to cook.  Do not overcook your shrimp.  Remove from heat and enjoy as is, or pair with jasmine rice.  You can view me preparing this dish on my Facebook page, Charlotte Fashion Plate.  ENJOY!

Clams in a Sambucca Spicy Sausage Cream Sauce

This recipe has amazing flavor and can be used with clams, mussels, shrimp or a combination of all three.  This dish, even though it looks sophisticated and complicated, is super easy and quick! You can make this for under $10/person...this recipe will serve a family of four...hard to get a quality dish like this in a restaurant for the price...

Clams in a Sambucca Spicy Sausage Cream Sauce

Clams in a Sambucca Spicy Sausage Cream Sauce

Start by purchasing super, fresh clams.  I buy all of my seafood and meats at The Carolina Food Market.  You can get the majority of these ingredients at this market.  For this recipe, I used 4 dozen little neck clams.  I start by soaking the clams in a bowl of water and flour.  The clams ingest the flour and spit it out with any sand/dirt that may be inside the clam.  Soak for about 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and set aside.  

Heat a deep pan with a touch of olive oil and add three hot sausage links with casings removed.  Start to break up and brown.  When sausage is almost browned, add 1 minced shallot and 5 to 7 minced garlic cloves along with a few dashes of red pepper flakes.  Add about 15 cherry tomatoes cut in half and allow to cook down for about 5 minutes.  

Add 1 1/2 small bottles of clam juice along with 1 1/2 tiny bottles of Sambucca.  Increase the heat to where the sauce is just under a boil.  Add the clams and cover with lid.  Have a bowl handy to start removing clams as they open.  Once all clams have opened and been removed, reduce the heat to medium and add about a Cup of heavy whipping cream.  Taste the sauce and see if you need additional Sambucca or cream.  Sauce will have a spicy/sweet taste.  Add about 5 basil leaves chiffonade.  Stir the sauce and allow the cream to warm up...about 4 minutes.  Add the clams back in to the sauce and allow to heat up for about a minute or so. I also add a few cans of really good chopped clams at this point.  Feel free to leave them out. I just love a lot of clams with my pasta. Have your favorite pasta cooked and ready in a bowl.  I used linguine for this recipe.  You can also forgo the pasta and just serve the clams in this sauce with crusty bread.  Pour the sauce on top of the pasta and add fresh chopped parsley and a bit more basil.  It's that easy...ENJOY!

Beef Stroganoff

This classic dish is the ultimate in comfort food and brings back so many childhood memories. Here is my version...it's super indulgent and decadent!

I've made this so many times and with so many different cuts of beef.  I have found that a ribeye/delmonico works best for this recipe.  Feel free to use whatever cut of beef you desire, but you may have to adjust cooking times for tenderness.  

Start by thinly slicing about two ribeyes.  Season with salt/pepper.  In a bowl, combine about 1 Cup of flour with additional salt/pepper.  It is really important to season at every stage.  Heat a few TBLS of olive oil in a deep pan.  Dredge the steak in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess and place in hot oil.  Allow the steak to brown really well, avoiding the burn stage. When the meat is almost brown, add one minced shallot.

Once the beef is beautifully browned, add about 3/4 box of Rachel Ray's Beef Stock.  Start scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  You will notice it start to thicken. Adjust heat to a medium low and allow the beef to simmer until it becomes tender.  For a ribeye, this usually takes about 35-40 minutes.  Cook time to become tender vary for other cuts of beef, typically longer.  While the beef is simmering, prepare your favorite egg noodles to al dente. I like a broad noodle with this dish.  Add one large package of sliced button mushrooms and chopped parsley to the pan and allow to cook for about 5-7 minutes. I prefer my mushrooms to remain hearty, but you can cook them down as much as you desire. Taste sauce for salt...add more if needed.  If sauce is not gravy-like at this point, I typically add a slurry of corn starch mixed with a bit of the left over stock.  Prior to adding the slurry, turn the heat up to medium-high then use a slotted spoon and pour in the slurry stirring constantly so as to avoid lumpy gravy.  Once thick, remove from heat and mix in sour cream.  You are probably going to use about a Cup.  I just keep tasting along the way to make sure it has that creamy texture and desired taste.  Place cooked noodles in bowl and top with this fabulous sauce and ENJOY!

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

This is by far one of my favorite recipes and one that I have been making for years.  Now that I can get fresh  clams at The Carolina Food Market, this dish is even better.  

Start by preparing your favorite linguine to al dente.  Don't forget to salt the water!  Drain and set aside.

Prepare your fresh clams by soaking them in a bit of flour and water for about 10 minutes.  The clams will ingest the flour and spit it out along with any dirt inside.  For this recipe, I use about 3 dozen fresh clams and I also buy a few cans of really good chopped clams.  The more clams the better.  Rinse soaked clams and then set aside.  Drain the canned clams over a bowl and reserve both clams and the juice.  

Heat a sauce pan...add about 1/4 Cup of olive oil and 3 TBLS of butter.  Add one small diced shallot and 8 garlic cloves minced.  Saute for a few minutes...do not brown the garlic/onions. Add reserved clam juice plus one small bottle of clam juice and about 1/2 Cup white wine.  Add about 1 TBLS dried oregano, salt and pepper.  Allow the liquid to come to a fast simmer, then add the fresh clams.  Place lid on top of sauce pan and allow clams to open.  Remove each clam as it opens and reserve in a bowl.  

Once all fresh clams have been opened and removed, add the canned chopped clams, zest and juice of one fresh lemon.  I also throw in a few dashes of red pepper flakes at this point (feel free to leave out). Allow to simmer just a few more minutes then add fresh chopped parsley.  

Arrange cooked linguine in a deep bowl, pour clam sauce on top and stir to coat the noodles.   Top with the fresh clams, fresh parsley and a touch more lemon zest.  I also like to top mine with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.  This pasta is fabulous the next day!

Minestrone Soup

Fall is upon us and winter will be here before we know it.  I love soups of all kinds and this is one of my favorites...my take on Ina's Garten's Winter Minestrone Soup.  

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Start by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil.  Heat about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot.  Add about 3 Italian hot sausage links (out of casing) and about 6 strips of thick cut bacon (cut into small pieces) to the heated oil and brown.  Once meat is browned, add one small shallot diced, 1/2 cup carrots diced, 1 zucchini diced, 4 to 5 cloves of minced garlic, and fresh thyme leaves.  At this point, I also add about 3 celery stocks with leaves.  You can dice the celery and leave in soup, I just prefer the flavor and will remove once soup is finished.  Cook for about 10 minutes to soften the vegetables.  Add one box of chopped/diced tomatoes, 6 Cups of chicken stock (I use Rachel Ray's), 2 to 3 bay leaves and salt/pepper.  Allow the pot to come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes.  

Add your favorite small pasta to the boiling salted water.  I prefer Barilla's Mezze Penne.  Cook to just al dente.  Drain and set aside.

When soup has simmered and vegetables are softened, remove the bay leaves and celery stalks and discard.  Add two cans of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed).  Add one big bag of baby spinach leaves and prepared pesto.  I love She's Pesto.  She is local to Charlotte.  Two to three frozen cubes of her homemade pesto is perfect for this soup.  If soup is too thick, add a bit more chicken stock.  Taste for salt...add more if needed.  Serve in individual bowls and top with Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and fresh chiffonades of basil. 

Cast Iron Skillet Seared Scallops with a Cayenne Corn Puree

This is by far one of my favorite dishes to prepare and to serve guests.  Once you learn the technique to prepare scallops, you will wonder why you don't make them at home more often. You want to start with super-fresh scallops.  I buy mine locally from The Carolina Fish Market. They are so big and meaty.  The recipe for the Cayenne Corn Puree follows.  You can actually prepare both at the same time.

I start by rinsing my scallops and pulling off the tiny piece of muscle on the side.  I place on paper towels to dry thoroughly.  The key to a great sear on a scallop is to be sure to dry as much as possible.  Season dry scallops with Salt and Pepper.  

Grab a cast iron skillet and allow to heat to a medium high.  I do coat my pan with just a touch of olive oil or butter.  When the pan is super hot, place about 4 to 5 scallops in pan...do not overcrowd...you can cook in batches if need be.  Allow the scallops to sear on one side for about 2 to 3 minutes depending on the size...as much as you may want to...DO NOT TOUCH...just allow them to sear.  When seared on one side, flip and sear the other.  Be sure not to overcook.  The more you do this, the better you will become at just knowing when the scallop is fully cooked and tender.  

 

Do not touch for a few minutes...allow to sear nicely one side...

Do not touch for a few minutes...allow to sear nicely one side...

Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops

Now for the super, simple Cayenne Corn puree.  Crisp up about 6 pieces thick bacon cut into tiny pieces and drain.  If you can find freshly picked corn, grab about five to six ears and cut the kernels off.  If corn is out of season or you can't find fresh picked, then you can use canned corn.  I prefer Green Giant White Shoepeg Corn.  As you are heating up your cast iron skillet, grab a pot and combine 1 Cup of Heavy Whipping Cream, the corn, salt and pepper, 2 to 3 Tablespoons of butter, and cayenne pepper (I usually use about one teaspoon, but you can definitely use more/less depending on your preferred heat level).  Allow the pot to come to a boil and boil for about 5 to 6 minutes.  Keep a watch that the pot does not overflow.  At this point, take an immersion blender and blend all ingredients in the pot.  If the mixture seems too thin, then just drain a bit of the liquid out prior to blending.  You can also use a food processor.  If you do not want the pieces of kernels in your finished product, then you can strain after blended.  I prefer not straining. Add about 3/4 of the bacon pieces to the blended mixture.  To plate for individual servings, I use a flat, wide bowl and pour part of the mixture in the bowl and top with 3 to 4 of your seared scallops.  Top with extra bits of bacon and fresh chopped parsley.

 

Seared Scallops with a Cayenne Corn Puree

Seared Scallops with a Cayenne Corn Puree

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup is one of my favorite soups to order in an Asian restaurant.  I have finally perfected it by using a variation of a recipe I found from easy-souprecipes.com

Here is how I make it...

I have tried hot and sour soup everywhere...some I have loved and others, not so much.  This recipe is all about taste for me...so I just keep tasting during preparation until it's right.  So, I must admit, I do cheat a little bit...I buy an already prepared applewood smoked pork loin from Harris Teeter.  It is full of flavor and really makes this recipe easier.  This soup can be prepared in about 20 minutes.  I start by heating, almost to a boil, one box of Rachel Ray's Chicken Stock.  Once heated, I add the pork, which I cut into strips, about a teaspoon of garlic chili sauce (add more or less depending on your desired heat level), 1 to 2 jars of shiitake mushrooms (drained and rinsed), and about 1/2 cup of low-sodium soy sauce.  Initially, I add about 1/2 cup of the soy sauce, but may add more later if need be.  Allow all of these ingredients to simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes.  

Add about 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper, one small can of bamboo shoots (drained, rinsed and cut into tiny strips), and about 1/2 Cup of white vinegar. You can also add tofu at this point, if you prefer.  I typically do not. Mix around a little, then give it a taste...you may have to add just a touch more soy sauce and/or vinegar..again...this recipe is all about taste. When you get it to the desired taste, mix about 1 to 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch with just a bit of water in a small bowl to make a slurry (not too thin). Bring the pot to almost a boil, then add the cornstarch slurry, all the while mixing with a slotted spoon.  Soup should start to become thicker, just to an almost gravy-like consistency.  In a small bowl, beat an egg white with a fork and add to soup, mixing as you pour it in.  You will see the egg form thin white ribbons throughout the soup.  Lastly, ENJOY!  I like mine with a little bit of rice. You can also substitute the pork with tofu for a vegetarian version.