Featured

Lemon Pepper Chicken with Thyme

Lemon Pepper Chicken

Who doesn’t love some roasted chicken once in a while? Here’s my recipe for lemon pepper chicken with thyme… Crazy easy to make, absolutely delicious, and as tender as rotisserie.

Serves 2-4 depending on appetite & size of chicken.

Ingredients:
1 Small to Medium Chicken, cut in half length-wise
1tbsp Olive Oil
4tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
3tbsp Lemon Juice
3tsp Salt, (1) 2tsp portion & (1) 1tsp portion
3tsp Ground Black Pepper, (1) 2tsp portion & (1) 1tsp portion
1tsp Garlic Powder
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

Ok, before I get into the directions let me mention a couple of things…

I’m a big fan of buying small chickens (or larger Cornish hens) and cutting them in half length-wise prior to cooking. I do this for two reasons. First, because when serving two people (me and the wifey) it’s easier to just place the entire half on a plate rather than carving (I loathe, LOATHE, carving). Secondly, I feel that it leaves me with a more moist end product. I will be giving the directions using this method. If you want to keep the chicken whole then simply don’t cut it in half and don’t worry about searing it off before roasting. Trust me though, doing it my way you get some seriously tender chicken breasts… absolutely no knives necessary!

Also, I prefer using an oven safe sauté pan with a cover when making this dish. It saves dishes and time. If you don’t have a large skillet or oven safe sauté pan simply transfer the chicken to a baking dish or dutch oven once seared off (assuming you’re cutting it in half).

Heat your oven to 350F.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven safe sauté pan or skillet at medium-high. Coat the cut side of the chicken with 1tsp of salt and 1tsp of pepper (combined, not 1tsp of each for both halves). Place the chicken cut side down in the sauté pan and sear until browned. The reason for doing this is to help retain juices in the chicken while roasting.

In a bowl combine the melted butter, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Brush the unseared skin side of the chicken with a 1/4 of the lemon butter mixture and add the sprigs of fresh time to the pan. Cover the sauté pan and then place it in the oven for 45 minutes, brushing with more lemon butter at 15 minute intervals, using an additional 1/4 each time.

After 45 minutes increase the oven temperature to 425F. Uncover and cook for an additional 50 minutes, brushing the chicken with the juices from the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes.

Allow to rest at least 5 minutes at room temperature before serving… And that’s it. Simple, delicious, tender, fall off the bone lemon pepper chicken. Serve it with your favorite side and have at it. Personally I did some whipped red bliss potatoes with butter, ricotta and thyme, as well as roasted sprouts and ‘shrooms. Do whatever you want, go crazy!

Enjoy!

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

Well hello everyone!! It’s been a long minute since you’ve heard from me… I apologize for the absence, but quite frankly, life is nuts. Between working, three very active children, and trying to carve away some time to spend with my beautiful wife, I’ve barely had time to cook, let along even think about blogging! Truthfully, I had no intention of even putting this up, but after I posted the picture on Facebook and Instagram, people started asking for my recipe… So here it is!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients (Meat Mixture)
2.5lbs Ground Beef 80/20
1.25lbs Ground Pork
1lb Ground Sweet Sausage
5 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1/2 Sweet Onion, chopped
2c Unseasoned Panko
3 Eggs
1/2c Grated Parmesan Cheese
2tbsp Salt
1tbsp Ground Black Pepper
1tbsp Garlic Powder
1lb Thick Cut Bacon

Ingredients (Glaze)
1.5c Ketchup
1/3c Light Brown Sugar
1/4c Soy Sauce
2tsp Ground Black Pepper
2tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flake

Preheat your oven to 500F.

In a large bowl combine the ingredients for the meat mixture, except for the bacon. Do not overwork the mixture or you risk getting a gummy texture. Just hand mix it until everything is pretty well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a greased 9.5×13″ baking dish and form into a loaf shape, gently smoothing out the outside. Once formed, diagonally lattice the bacon over the top, as you get towards the edges you’ll need to cut a couple of strips in half so it fits. Tuck any exposed edges under the loaf. Place in the oven at 500F and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the bacon starts to lightly crisp up (there’s a pic below to show you where you want it). Baste the meatloaf every 8-10 minutes with the rendered bacon fat in the bottom of the baking dish. This will help crisp the bacon faster, as well as keep the meatloaf moist.

While the meatloaf is baking combine the ingredients for the glaze. Feel free to adjust the quantities to taste. Some people prefer a sweeter glaze, some people want more salt, some want heat… Your call.

Once the bacon is starting to crisp up, remove the meatloaf from the oven and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the loaf. Using a baster I also removed any of the rendered bacon fat fluids from the bottom of the dish to keep the bottom of the loaf from being soggy, and to use in other ways (I used it to sear golden potato fondant rather than oil or butter… bacon fat potato fondant? heck yeah!).

Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.

After the meat has rested, evenly coat it with the glaze. Then place in the oven at 350F and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from the oven then let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

That’s it, you’re done. Super simple with a ton of flavor, and probably the moistest meatloaf you’ll have in your life! Enjoy!!

Traditional Meatloaf (w/ wine pairings)

Meatloaf

Recently a couple of readers reached out to ask for some more easy “comfort food” recipes, and it doesn’t get much easier, or more comforting, than meatloaf! Now one issue I always have with most online meatloaf recipes is that they’re too darn small. Who needs a 1 1/2-2lb meatloaf?!? So here’s a real meatloaf, one that’ll feed the whole family. Oh yeah, and some wine pairings… because who doesn’t love wine? Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients (Meat Mixture)
3lb 80/20 Ground Beef (don’t go leaner, you need fat to keep it moist)
1 1/4c Plain Panko
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Salt
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Garlic Powder
3tbsp Grated Parmesan

Ingredients (Saute – to be added to meat mixture)
1 Large Carrot, chopped
1 Celery Stalk, chopped
1 Red Onion, chopped
4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
2tbsp Olive Oil
1/2tsp Salt
1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/2c Chicken Stock (I use Low Sodium)

Ingredients (Glaze)
1/2c Ketchup
1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1tbsp Light Brown Sugar
1/2tsp Ground Black Pepper

Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a large bowl combine all of the “Meat Mixture” ingredients by hand, do not overwork or it will become gummy and dense. Set aside at room temperature.

From the “Saute” ingredients, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan at Medium. Add the chopped vegetables, salt and black pepper. Simmer, stirring periodically, until the vegetables become translucent, about five minutes. Add the chicken stock, simmer an additional two minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool at room temperature. Once cool enough to touch by hand, add to the meat mixture and mix together by hand, once again don’t overwork it. Place the mixture in the fridge to cool, about 30 minutes.

Lightly grease a 9.5×13″ baking dish. Remove the meat mixture from the fridge, gently form into a loaf shape and place in the dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

While the meatloaf is in the oven combine the “Glaze” ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

After 30 minutes remove the meatloaf from the oven and evenly spread the glaze over the exterior. Place back in the oven for an additional 45 minutes at 350F. Remove from the oven and rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving. That’s it, you’re done. Serve it with your favorite side(s) and have a great family dinner! This last time we did garlic risotto and roasted carrots, it was delicious.

Ok, so let’s talk wine pairings. Now some might argue that Meatloaf originated from Eastern Europe, but in my not-so-humble opinion it’s about as American as Apple Pie! So let’s stick with some wines from the good ‘ole U S of A. Obviously we’re sticking with reds here, and we’re going to stay more towards the “full bodied” end of the spectrum. Here’s what I’m thinking…

Foxglove Zinfandel, Paso Robles, California – Foxglove is the second label of the famed Varner twins, who made their name as pioneers in the now infamous, and incredibly expensive, Santa Cruz Mountains. They created Foxglove to have a lineup of wines at a more affordable, everyday price point, as compared to their signature Varner wines that retailed at $40 and beyond. The 2014 Paso Robles Zinfandel sees minimal oak and is fruit forward, without being too ripe. Nuances of raspberry, tart cherry, dried herbs and spice play on the palate. A refreshing departure from overblown, high alcohol California Zins! PP Score: 90 (Retail $12-15)

Sean Minor Red Blend Cuvee Nicole Marie, North Coast, California – One of our favorite domestic producers here at Perfect Pairings at Home, Sean Minor never fails to over deliver for the price point. Their Nicole Marie red blend is interesting in the fact that it is Merlot-based, along with some Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel, whereas most “California blends” are either predominantly Cabernet or Zinfandel. The wine is deep ruby in color and displays aromas of ripe blueberry, dark cherry, cassis and vanilla. On the entry, flavors of blueberries and dark cherry combine with hints of oak spices which coat the palate. The soft tannins and sweet oak lead to a long and lingering finish. Exceptional for the price. PP Score: 92 (Retail $18-22)

Hardin Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California – Hardin is the brainchild of Douglas Polaner, visionary and owner of Polaner Selections, one of the top fine wine importers/distributors in the United States. His vision was to create a Napa Cabernet that drank like a $50 bottle, but cost around $30… and he succeeded! The first ever vintage of Hardin was 2003, with 170 cases made. Fast forward to 2015 and Doug has pushed the needle closer to 3,000, and while you would think that the quality would dilute with the increased production, the exact opposite has happened… the wine has gotten better and better every single year! The 2015 displays aromas of black cherry, cassis, dried herbs, rose petal and faint oak. Beautifully structured, with a moderately soft opening leading into an explosive mid-palate with notes of cassis, black fig, tobacco, black tea and ground peppercorn, framed by subtle acidity and an assertive tannic backbone, with a long, lingering, and slightly warm finish. Easily one of the best Napa Cabernets on the market at this price point! PP Score: 94 (Retail $25-32)

So there you have it. My comforting and family-sized friendly meatloaf, and some kickass, yet moderately affordable, domestic wines to go with it. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and I certainly hope you’ll try the recipe and possibly some of the wines! More content is on the way. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of California red, sit back, and relax… Life is short, you deserve to enjoy it!!

Rustic Pork Stew (w/ wine pairings)

Rustic Pork Stew

So, a couple of things before I get into the story and recipe…

First and foremost, it’s great to be back and putting up new content for you all! It’s been almost a year since my last post, which is far too long. Unfortunately with work, coaching, and three VERY active kids, time is a commodity that I don’t have. Heck, I barely even get a chance to cook anymore.

Second, I know the pic isn’t great. Listen, by now you know me. I’m not your typical food blogger where I’m cooking for the sake of the blog post. I’m cooking to feed my family and friends. I don’t have the time to stage the photo with the perfect lighting, and the perfect bowl or crock, and maybe a fancy linen napkin with a pretty spoon on it, and some herbs sprinkled around the counter, a glass of wine in the background… If I tried to do that my family would kill me. This pic was taken while seven very hungry people were sitting at the dining room table waiting to eat. All I had was enough time to snap a quick shot before I had a familial mutiny on my hands… So, the pic is what is is. But what really matters is the soup, and that my friends was pretty darn delicious!

So this past weekend we finally had a day as a family where we had nothing to do. No soccer, no baseball, no football, no wrestling, no dance, no chorus, no family parties, no classmate/teammate/friend birthday parties, no work obligations. NOTHING. You have no idea how rare that is for us. It may happen 15 days out of 365, and quite frankly that’s probably an exaggeration. Well anyway, the weather has finally taken a turn here along the Atlantic Coast, and it is just wet, windy and raw. When I asked my family what they wanted me to make for dinner on this rare free day, the word that jumped out of everyone’s mouths was “SOUP!”, and I was more than happy to oblige (honestly I was going to make soup regardless of their responses, but they don’t know that, LOL!).

Off to the store I ran (ok, drove, my running days are long gone). Normally I try to go in with an idea of what I want to make, in this case soup, but also with an open mind to let the ingredients talk to me while I’m in the store to lead me to the end product. What looks good, what’s on sale, what suddenly jumps out at me. Well, that was not the case on this day. I was craving beef stew, and in a big way… Until I saw that the cheapest beef they had was $7.99 per pound, and the beef I really wanted to use (short rib and shank) was $9.99 per pound. Ouch. I need five pounds of meat for the stew! Hmmm, maybe time to rethink this… I looked around and noticed that they had Pork Loin Roast Sirloin Portions on sale for a $1.49 per pound. ONE. FORTY. NINE. So let’s see, I could spend $40-50 for beef, or $7.50 for pork… Yeah, you guessed it, pork won!! I ended up feeding 8 people (four adults, a teenager, two very hungry pre-teens, and a toddler) for $22, and the meal was delicious. You just can’t beat that!

So here’s my Rustic Pork Stew recipe, and some wines to pair with it… Enjoy!

Serves: 6-8

Prep + Cook Time: About 6hrs*
*Note: You can cut down the simmer time on this if you really want to. I prefer my meat really tender and broken down in the stew, but I know some people like slightly firmer chunks of meat. Up to you.

Ingredients:
3tbsp Olive Oil
5lb Pork, cut to 1″ cubes*
*I used a Pork Loin Roast Sirloin Portion that does have bones. You could certainly use a pork roast that is boneless if you want. If you do use a bone-in portion, keep the bones after you’ve cut the meat off, you’ll be using them.
6 Large Cloves of Garlic, chopped
1 Large Sweet Onion, sliced
1c Cream Sherry
96oz Beef Stock
4c Water
28oz Canned Diced Tomato
6oz Tomato Paste
2lb Potatoes, large dice, keep skin on
1lb Carrots, large dice
1lb Parsnip, large dice
2 Bunches of Parsley, chopped
3tsp Salt
2tsp Ground Black Pepper

Use a large sauce pot, no less than 8 quarts.

Heat the olive oil on High, then add the cubed pork, along with one tsp each of salt and pepper. Sear until lightly browned on all sides, then use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the meat (leave the oil and rendered fat), set the meat aside at room temp. Add the pork bones, cook until browned. Reduce the heat to Medium, then add the garlic and onions, along with one tsp of salt. Cook until they start to sweat, 3-5 minutes. Increase the heat back to High, add the cream sherry, boil until reduced by half. Add the cooked pork cubes back to the pot, along with the beef stock, water, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to Medium-Low. Simmer uncovered for 2 1/2 hours, stirring periodically. Then add the potatoes, carrots and parsnips, along with one tsp each of salt and pepper, simmer an additional 2 hours, stirring periodically. Using tongs, fish around to find and remove the bones. Add the chopped parsley, simmer an additional 20 minutes.  That’s it, you’re done. Ladle into bowls, cut some nice crusty bread, and eat up!

Now let’s discuss wine pairings… We’re talking some pretty full flavors here in the stew, so you want a wine with some body and backbone, but you still don’t want anything TOO big and bold that will overwhelm it. With stews I tend to lean towards Italian wines like Chianti Classico, Barolo, Barbaresco, or wines from Etna. Also wines from Southern France work quite well, think appellations like Côtes-du-Rhône, Saint-Joseph, Languedoc, or Cahors. I’d recommend staying away from anything too dark or fruit forward, like California Cabs or Zins, or Argentine Malbecs. Here are a few recommendations…

Fattoria di Fèlsina Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy – Fèlsina is one of the great names of Tuscany, and their Chianti Classico never fails to impress at this price. On the nose are aromas of black cherry, dried herbs, leather and sweet pipe tobacco. On the palate the wine is simultaneously powerful, yet elegant, with flavors matching the aromas, yet further nuanced with hints of earth and subtle oak, framed by well integrated tannins giving structure and strength. PP Score: 92 (Retail $19-24)

Socrè Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy – Socrè is one of the best kept secrets of Piedmont, plain and simple. With three hectares in Roncaglie (right below the famed Langhe estate of Gaja), they have been making some of the purest expressions of Nebbiolo since 1869. The 2013 Barbaresco’s aromatics burst out of the glass, with hints of dark cherry, dried herbs, anise, rose petal and lavender. The wine has a bright, explosive opening, with expressions of red and black fruit, herbs, and leather, but then calms in the mid-palate, with nuances of crushed flower, earth and smoke, leading into a long and lingering finish. Unbelievable for the price. PP Score: 94 (Retail $33-37)

Domaine Vincent Paris Saint-Joseph Les Côtes, Rhone, France – Despite the relative youth of both Vincent himself (44) and his winery (est.1997), the wines of Monsieur Paris are widely regarded as some of the best of their respective appellations, and the 2015 Saint-Joseph Les Côtes is no exception. Made from Vincent’s younger Syrah vines (10-20 years), the wine is similarly youthful and energetic. Aromas of dark cherry, ripe raspberry, crushed flowers and cracked peppercorn waft from the glass. On the palate the wine is a beautiful balance of tart red fruit, earth tones, Asian spice and wild game, framed by moderate acidity and firm tannin. Still young and capable of being cellared, but showing well now. PP Score: 91 (Retail $23-28)

So there you have it, my absolutely delicious (and inexpensive!) Rustic Pork Stew and some equally delicious wines to enjoy it with. Thank you very much for the visit, and hopefully you’ll try the recipe. New content coming… well, at some point in the future (hopefully not another year!). In the meantime grab a steaming bowl of soup, pour a beautiful old world red, sit back, and relax. Life is short, you deserve to enjoy it!

Sausage Stuffing Recipe

homemade-sausage-stuffing
Sausage Stuffing

Sooooooooo…… first let me say that I apologize for the picture, it’s not the finished product. This was the “before” picture I posted on social media as a teaser, and I had planned on taking a pic of the stuffing after it came out of the oven for the blog. The only problem was that when it came out it looked so darn good, smelled so darn good, and we were all so hungry, that it was gone before I could even grab my phone.

Oops!

Anyway, every year we head to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving, and every year my wife’s family asks me to make the same two things… Bread, and old school green bean casserole. While I agreed to make the old standby’s again this year, I knew I wanted to bring something else as well. I came up with a ton of different ideas: homemade cranberry sauce, stuffed breads, roasted sweet potato skins (which I will be making soon, I have a great idea for them!), duck confit bruschetta… and then it hit me. Years and years ago a bunch of high school buddies and I used to descend upon my one friend’s parents house after we were all done with our respective Thanksgiving family visits, and raided their leftovers. One dish that I always looked forward to was his mom’s Sausage Stuffing made with homemade white bread. Not only was it absolutely delicious, but it always impressed me that she made bread for the sole purpose of making the stuffing.

Once that bit of nostalgia hit me, I knew I had to make it! Thanks for the idea Carlota… and I still miss your stuffing!!!

I’m not including the recipe for my homemade bread. People that are into baking bread already have their own go to, and let’s face it, for the people that aren’t already baking their own bread it’s because they don’t want to… lol. If you guys really want my recipe, just let me know and I’ll post it.

Serves: A very hungry family…

Ingredients
1 1/2lb Sweet Sausage (loose if available, otherwise use links and remove the casing)
2tbsp Olive Oil
1 1/2c Madeira Wine or Cream Sherry
2 1/2c Chicken Stock
1tsp Salt
2tsp Ground Black Pepper
2tbsp Light Brown Sugar
1tbsp Chopped Fresh Sage Leaves (about 10-12 leaves)
3tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
6tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 Large Loaf of Homemade or Bakery White Bread, cubed into 1″ squares

Heat your oven to 375F.

Place the cubed bread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. You want the outsides very lightly toasted, but the inside still soft. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a large pot heat the olive oil on high, then add small chunks of the sweet sausage. Cook until the outsides are browned. If you have any larger chunks of sausage simply break them into smaller pieces with your stirring spoon while cooking. Add the Madeira or Sherry and cook until reduced by half. Add the chicken stock, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Add the chopped sage, thyme and butter and continue simmering for an additional 10 minutes, still stirring periodically.

Put the cubed bread in a large bowl and pour in the sausage and sauce. Toss until the bread is evenly coated, then transfer the mixture to a 9.5×13 baking dish and let sit for 10-15 minutes to let the bread soak up any extra sauce. Cover with foil and bake at 375F for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes to lightly toast the top.

That’s it, you’re done! Enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t last long. Don’t count on seconds!!

%d bloggers like this: