Cooking typically relaxes me and helps to wash away some of the stress of the day. Even something as mundane as food prep and chopping veggies makes me happy - especially if I have music on in the background.
So since all of last week was a stressful hot mess, I needed a vacation on an island, a bottle or seven of wine, and some time in my kitchen. Since I didn't have an island I could escape to, I decided to stick with the kitchen and wine.
If you want to skip down to the recipes, please be my guest... but Jesus take the Wheel I need to just vent for a second. Balls.
First off, I should start by saying I love my apartment. I found a true steal in what I pay for rent and what I get in return. There is tons of sunlight, lots of room, the location is good, and the neighborhood is quiet. I absolutely adore it.
There are just a few problems - one being electricity, and the other being heat. I have had an issue with an outlet in my living room for a while. Without making this story even longer, flashback to when I went to plug in a strand of Christmas lights to test it out, it completely blew the fuse and bam! No more outlet. I called maintenance, and they supposedly fixed it.
Well...turns out that as of Thursday, not only was that outlet not working, but an outlet on the opposite wall in my bedroom wasn't working as well.
The bigger issue is the temperature in my apartment. A few nights ago, the temperature was 58. Then the next morning it was sitting around 63.
So when I called my management company Thursday afternoon, they said they'd send someone out on Friday. When they didn't come by 3:00, I got a little concerned and followed up.
And then I got a call from the maintenance man.
Who, upon conversation, admitted that he went into the wrong apartment. He apologized profusely and came by Saturday afternoon to take a look at things. He adjusted the boiler a bit, but apparently the building owners told him not to raise the temperature. Uh huh. Ok.... well, with the temperatures in Chicago hovering around Frosty the Snowman's balls for the foreseeable future, I'm going to need to have a small chat with the management company. I don't feel like freezing my tatas off, or dryhumping my space heater to keep warm.
Keep your fingers crossed. So drama number two?
Apparently my identity was stolen in the whole Target security breach thing and some fuckknuckle in California spent a few hundred dollars at a Starbucks in Fair Oaks California and then a couple hundred dollars at other stores around the area.
***Insert joke about how the only person who could think to spend $300 at a Starbucks is a white girl here.***
To be honest, I'm not really freaking out about the whole card situation. My bank cancelled the card, I will get a new one, and the money will be returned it me. It's more of an inconvenience and annoyance than anything else. But it's a stress I didn't want to deal with.
So needless to say, I needed to relax in the kitchen for a while. Since it was a Friday, I didn't want anything too labor intensive, and I wanted to be able to put something together that was yummy and relatively fast.
BAM! GARLIC PARMESAN CHICKEN WITH PEARLED BARLEY PILAF AND SNOW PEAS, SUCKA!
I like cheese. In fact, if I could only eat 3 things for the rest of my life, cheese would be one of those things. And I also really like garlic, so it's only natural to throw those two things together like Kim Kardashian and whorey choices. Rather than do a typical rice or pasta dish, I wanted to do something a little different - enter pearled barley. It's delicious, puffs up like rice, and has a bite similar to pasta.
Super duper bonus? Your house will smell amazing. Seriously - it's going to smell like an orgasm feels. It'll make you want to booty pop all over the place. Twerk Team Garlic Parmesan Chicken.
So...Recipe 1? Baked Garlic Parmesan Chicken with Pearled Barley Pilaf and Snow Peas. And since I love the shit out of you, I also made a quick gravy out of the pan drippings. That picture will come later.
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 c. flour
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese (the stuff in the "green can" works fine)
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried basil
1 tsp. red pepper flake
1 tsp. salt (add more if needed)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Pearled Barley Ingredients
2 T. olive oil
1 c. pearled barley
1 sm. onion (sm. dice)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
2 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 T. chicken bullion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6 oz. bag snow peas
Garlic Parmesan Chicken Method
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. In a bowl, blend the olive oil and garlic. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. (Probably this would be a fun time to mention that I originally intended the dredge to use bread crumbs rather than flour, but I forgot to pick some up at the grocery store. Oh well - improvise).
3. Dip chicken breast in oil mixture, then in the flour mixture. Arrange the coated chicken in the prepared baking dish and top with a little more flour mixture. Also...yes... those are huge chicken breasts. Probably they are not organic. Probably they have been injected with more steroids than Jose Canseco.
4. Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven or until chicken is no longer pink and internal temperature reaches 165°.
Parmesan Chicken Gravy
A little bonus to your chicken, you'll notice in the bottom of your baking dish, you should have tons of yummy bits of browned goodness. Don't waste these flavorbombs - make a super easy gravy or sauce to go over your chicken.
1. Remove chicken from pan and set aside to rest. Place baking dish over burner and turn on to medium heat.
2. In a separate bowl, add water + chicken bouillon. Whisk together. Add half of the chicken stock to the pan of browned yummyness and whisk, scraping bits off o the bottom and incorporating them into the stock.
3. In the reserved stock, add corn starch or flour and whisk, creating a slurry. Add to baking dish, a small amount at a time, whisking until desired thickness. If your gravy is too thick, add more stock or water to thin out. I'm not usually a huge fan of slurries... but in the interest of time, I didn't feel like making a roux.
Pearled Barley Pilaf with Snow Peas Method
1. Heat olive oil in quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, cook 5-7 minutes or until onions and garlic are tender and translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add pearled barley to the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring often for 3 minutes or until each grain is coated with the oil.
3. Add water, chicken bouillon, salt and pepper to the barley. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 35 minutes.
5. Remove from heat. You can also add small strips of lemon peel and chopped flat leaf parsley at this time for additional flavor and garnish. Uncover and let cool for 5 minutes.
It's not the prettiest dish at the prom, but here's the finished nommyness complete with gravy. Excuse me while I shove all of this in my mouth and have a food baby.
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs over Crispy Polenta
When it's cold out, I think there is nothing better than a meal that can warm you up and stick to your bones, and since Chicago has been experiencing colder than normal weather, I figured that there isn't anything better than braised meat in a fantastic sauce. Braised short ribs are surprisingly easy to make and packed with tons of flavor. If you're doing the no-carb thing, simply leave out the polenta. Just be warned - since short ribs are pretty fatty, this isn't a New Years Resolution kind of meal... unless your resolution is to shove delicious food in your flavor piece and say "fuck all" to diets.
2 pounds beef short ribs
Cracked black pepper
3 T. butter (divided - 1 T. each)
3 T. olive oil
Red Wine (I like to use a full bodied wine - Cabernet works amazingly)
4 c. beef stock
4 cloves garlic - smashed
1 c. polenta (I used instant polenta - save yourself some time!)
2 c. water
1 c. milk
Pinch cayenne pepper
Enough salt to choke a horse
1. In a saucepan, combine milk water and cayenne pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and season generously with salt. I'm talking dump it in. Polenta will erase the salt - if you don't abundantly season, your polenta won't have much flavor. Season and taste. It's muy importante.
2. Once the mixture is at a boil and is seasoned to your liking, sprinkle the polenta in, whisking constantly.
3. After the polenta is combined, switch to mixing with a wooden spoon and stir frequently until the polenta has become thick and doesn't feel mealy and grainy. Add more milk or water if necessary and cook until a thick consistency. The polenta should feel smooth on your tongue - use the instructions on your container of polenta as a guideline. My instant polenta took about 5 - 10 minutes.
4. Line an 8 x 8 inch square pan with wax or parchment paper. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan. Cover the top with more plastic (smooth onto the surface of the polenta to even it all out) and chill in the refrigerator until needed. Pro tip? Polenta can be made ahead of time... like...the day before ahead of time.
5. Around the time you're removing the braised beef from the oven (see the steps below), remove the polenta from the pan and cut into desired shapes. I used circle forms for mine. Also grate your cheese.
6. Coat a nonstick pan with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Once the pan is heated and is starting to smoke just a little, add the polenta. Flip when done on one side and add grated Parmigiano to cooked top. Remove from oil when finished and let rest on paper towels.
Short Ribs Method
1. Preheat your oven to 325°.
2. Bring ribs to room temperature (cold beef seizes up when hitting the heat) and season on all sides with salt and pepper.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ribs to the hot pan and brown on all sides.
4. Transfer the ribs to a plate and add smashed garlic to the Dutch oven. Stir garlic until soft - about 1 minute (don't let the garlic burn).
5. Carefully pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to 1 cup. Add the ribs and any juices left on the plate back into the pot.
6. Add the beef stock, allow to boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer into the preheated oven. Let cook until the meat easily falls off the bone, about 3 hours. The below picture is the finished meat before taking it out of the liquid.
7. When the meat is done, transfer the ribs to a plate. Chances are the meat has fallen off of the bone in the pot or will fall off once your tongs grab it (yay!). Tent plate with foil to keep meat warm.
8. Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. (if you don't have a fine mesh sieve, a fine strainer, or strainer lined with cheesecloth or paper towel will also work) Allow the liquid to simmer, skimming the fat as necessary. The sauce will reduce and should thicken - about 10 minutes. If you have time and want to, reduce your sauce even more to intensify the flavor.
9. Once sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
10. Take this time to shred the meat from the bones and set aside.
11. To build the plate, set a crispy polenta cake at the bottom of a wide bowl. Add some of the meat to the top of the cake, add another cake, add more meat, and spoon the sauce over the meat and polenta.
Taaa Daaaaaaaa. Now go dive, face first into the bowl of meaty, corn cakey, juicy goodness. Note: I can't be held responsible when you pass out in a food coma from all of the deliciousness.
I'm snuggled up working from home today since it is currently -14 in Chicago with a "feel like" of -42. And it's apparently a heat wave in the apartment as the electric space heater currently reads 65. No worries - I'll be on the couch with a blanket and taking a long, hot shower later.
Hope everyone is warm where they are - have a great week!