Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beer Braised Chicken Thighs

Beer Braised Chicken Thighs

I can almost see you rolling your eyes now. Another braised chicken dish? Shouldn't you be gearing up for grilling season? Aren't you bored with braising yet?

But wait! Don't leave yet...

It's no secret that I prepare a lot of skin-on bone-in chicken thighs. They're cheap; they're pretty versatile; and they're the perfect portion size for my soon-to-be kindergartner. However, lately I've been stuck in a rut so recently I went online and looked for some inspiration. I found it in a Rachael Ray recipe on, however I was not inspired how you might expect.

The Challenge

I can see the appeal of Ms. Ray. Her dishes have approachable preparation methods for the home cook and she has the charisma to be relatable to a wide audience, but I believe that her lack of formal culinary training was exposed in this dish. I, too, have no formal training but I do have a lot of experience braising chicken and, hopefully, have applied it to produce a technically superior (which should result in a tastier) dish. I kept the ingredient amounts the same so instead of reviewing the method, please refer to the above link to note the changes I've made below.


1. I omitted scallions and hot sauce. It's a personal preference but I'm not a huge fan of spicy foods, but I enjoy milder spices to balance other sweet, salty and/or savory flavors in the dish. I also decided to garnish my dish differently. I also substituted a red bell pepper for a green one because I had a red one in my refrigerator.

2. One of the most creative ways I've seen to use bacon I profiled when I first prepared the coq au vin dish. Namely, rendering bacon pieces, removing them, then using the bacon grease to sauté the chicken. By doing this, the flavors of the bacon will infuse into the chicken. Chicken thighs also have a considerable amount of fat underneath their skin that can be rendered when seared which will assist with the mirepoix. Speaking of...

3. I used a full mirepoix, adding carrots to the onion, bell pepper and celery. I also seasoned the mirepoix with kosher salt and instead of sweating it, browned it to create some fond. I also decided to use a thyme bundle instead of chopping it. Lastly, I waited to add the garlic to an already browned mirepoix because burnt garlic has a bitter taste.

4. The instructions are inadequate, in that Ms. Ray doesn't specify how long to simmer the chicken but based upon past experience, I recommend 30 minutes over low to medium-low heat to ensure the highs are fully cooked through. I also omitted the flour because I've found thst reducing the braising fluid is more effective way to thicken the sauce because it concentrates the flavors.


I believe so, but if you don't believe me, Mrs. Stuntman noted as she was eating, "I don't know what you did, but this dish tastes good!" However I have one final criticism of this dish because I feel it was improperly named. Yes, beer was in the braising fluid but the strongest flavor in the sauce was the tomatoes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sorbetto di Limone and a Winner

Sorbetto di Limone

And we have a winner! Congratulations to Toni of Food.(Just Sayin'). I was going to request a prompt reply, but we've already touched base.

So the rest of you don't feel left out, I have profiled another dish from Chef Viviani's cookbook here. It was originally supposed to be a Mother's Day dessert for my family's gathering but it was a watery mess the morning of, so I had to wait another day before I could publish it.

The Challenge

Homemade food made from scratch.

The Source

Taken from page 231 of Fabio's Italian Kitchen by Fabio Viviani with Melanie Rehak.


2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons vodka
2 cups lemo juice
Zest from 2 lemons
1 heaping tablespoon mascarpone cheese


1. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water and vodka and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until the liquid is clear and syrupy, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes.

2. Once cooled, combine the syrup with the lemon juice and lemon zest in a glass or ceramic bowl and freeze for 60 minutes.

After the hour, stir in the mascarpone and adjust for sweetness if necessary. Check check back occasionally: once every hour or two, when awake and/or present, stirring each time and using a fork to scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary, for 24 hours. The sorbet is done when it's set: thick enough to hold onto a spoon but thin enough to drink out of a glass.


I made a double batch, so I believe it's why it took so long to freeze. From a flavor standpoint, it was very light and refreshing, but from an execution standpoint, the zest pieces were a little too coarse.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Light Stunt: Piccata di Pollo plus a Giveaway!

Piccata di Pollo

It's funny how things come together sometimes.

One recent evening I happened to be on twitter when I saw a tweet from Chef Fabio Viviani that read something like "Come get a signed copy of my new cookbook" but what caught my attention was the location was only about a 30 minute drive from home. So after getting the expense authorized by the CFS Finance Department (i.e. Mrs. Stuntman), I will be giving away a copy of Fabio's Italian Kitchen by Fabio Viviani with Melanie Rehak autographed by Fabio Viviani. Details are below.

I've only recently become a fan. I started watching Top Chef in season 7, so I missed his initial appearance in season 5 but caught him in season 8. Apparently the man has many female fans due to his good looks, but I'm a heterosexual male and I've always said I wouldn't know a good looking man if one came up and slapped me along side my head.

It's okay because I've found other reasons to admire the man. I've watched his web show Chow Ciao! with some interest because I profile a lot of Italian dishes here but what really impressed me was his temperament on the first season's sixth episode of Life After Top Chef. Chef Viviani catered a charity dinner but his sous chef got to the site two hours late with the food. Chef Viviani kept his cool and his guests didn't know his world was falling apart behind the scenes. Honestly, I don't think I would have acted in a similar manner.

I also picked up a copy for myself, and while thumbing through it on my way home, found this recipe that utilized the boneless skinless chicken breasts I had sitting in the refrigerator.

The Challenge

This dish is essentially a seared protein with a pan sauce which makes it perfect for a weeknight meal, so I have categorized it as a Light Stunt. Chef Viviani pairs it with radicchio Treviso, but I decided to take the dish in a different direction.

The Source

Page 178


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons capers, drained or rinsed if salted
1 lemon, sliced into 1/6-inch rounds
Cooked pasta of your choice


1. Pound each chicken piece between two sheets of plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Then season on both sides with the salt, pepper and paprika.

2. Place 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until browned on both sides.

3. Add the lemon juice, chicken stock, capers, the remaining butter, and lemon slices to the pan and reduce until the sauce thickens.

Giveaway Details

I am giving away 1 copy of Fabio's Italian Kitchen by Fabio Viviani with Melanie Rehak autographed by Fabio Viviani. The contest will end on May 17, 2013 at 12:00 Pacific Standard Time. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Shrimp Soft Tacos with Lime Dressing and Crunchy Vegetables for a Cinco de Mayo #SundaySupper

Shrimp Soft Tacos with Lime Dressing and Crunchy Vegetables

I was probably a senior in high school when I was out with some friends on a Saturday afternoon in late April when the discussion of local Cinco de Mayo events arose when (despite three years of Spanish classes and not realizing the literal translation) I asked, when is cinco de mayo?

Not to be confused with Mexico's Independence Day (which is celebrated on September 16th), probably the most historically accurate account surrounding the day I found is on History Channel's website. It is also the theme for this week's #SundaySupper event due to it being so timely.

The Challenge

Quite simply, authenticity. So much of ethnic cuisine has been polluted by American influences, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two.

The Source

I consider Chef Rick Bayless an authority on authentic Mexican cuisine, so I grabbed this recipe from his website.


1 lime, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 bay leaves
12 ounces raw shrimp, 40 to 50 count
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 ripe medium-small tomato, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
5 radishes, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
Flour tortillas


1. Cook the shrimp: Squeeze the juice from the two lime halves into a medium saucepan, then add the two rinds. Add in 1 quart water, black peppercorns, allspice and bay leaves. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, recover and raise the heat to high until a bare simmer is reached. Immediately remove the saucepan from heat and drain the fluid. Recover the saucepan and set aside for five to 8 minutes, or until the shrimp are fully cooked through. Shock the shrimp by running cold water over them to stop any further carryover cooking. Peel and devein the shrimp, if necessary and cut the shrimp into 1/22-inch pieces if using medium or large shrimp. Add the shrimp to a bowl and combine with the red onion, radishes, tomatoes and cilantro. Toss to combine.

2. Make the dressing and finish the dish: In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, vegetable oil, and salt. Pour the dressing over the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, add the shrimp mixture to flour tortillas and serve.


The weather here locally has been warm this week, so this was light and refreshing. In preparing this dish, I was reminded that Mexican food is very delicious, but often labor intensive. In this case, the mise en place was a marathon. Ultimately, it was tasty and Mrs. Stuntman was happy with it.

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Other Sunday Supper Participants

And finally, please check out this week's other Sunday Supper contributors:

Cinco de Mayo Appetizers & Sides {Aperitivos}:
Cinco de Mayo Main Dishes {Platos Principales}:
Cinco de Mayo Desserts {Postres}:
Cinco de Mayo Drinks {Bebidas}: