Caesar Dressing

Caesar pic stitchOne of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to make recipes that require an emulsion to come out right. Things like aioli, hollandaise, and traditional mayonnaise all do exactly what common wisdom says can’t be done: force oil and water to mix. This Caesar dressing variation is made much like mayonnaise, although we are going to use more liquid and slightly less oil so that the dressing is pourable rather than thick.

As an aside, the original Caesar dressing did not contain anchovies; rather the anchovy flavor in the dressing came from Worcestershire sauce. Given that most modern Worcestershire sauces don’t have nearly enough of a salty, fishy kick to them, we’re using honest-to-god anchovy filets. Don’t let that scare you away from this dressing, though — the end result is a bright, fresh flavored dressing perfect for greens.

Caesar Dressing

  • IMG_93313 egg yolks
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • A 2 oz. tin of anchovy filets
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 1 1/4 cup olive oil

Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, anchovies, and oregano into a food processor and blend until the anchovies have been pureed. I only had a Magic Bullet-style blender to use, so after I whipped my egg and anchovy mixture, I transferred it to the bowl of my stand mixer. If using a food processor, you can do this whole process in it. Once you’ve gotten your anchovy/egg mixture smooth, begin slowly adding the oil with the processor running. The key to making a good emulsion is not overwhelming your egg mixture with too much oil all at once. Drizzle it in a slow, steady stream — or spoonful by spoonful if that’s easier for you to control. As the oil is incorporated, the dressing will thicken into something quite creamy and nice. Adjust your seasonings once the oil is all mixed and your dressing is ready to serve.

For our salad, we sauteed a couple of chicken breasts, added croutons, a boiled egg, and Parmesan cheese, finishing with some pickled radishes. This is a salad that makes for a complete meal, but this dressing is good on just a simple side salad with a main course. Enjoy!

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Panko-Parmesan oven-fried chicken salad with honey-Dijon dressing

IMG_9303A couple of weeks ago, Jess and I spent a lovely weekend in her hometown of Glenwood. We visited with her parents and brother (who was in from Colorado), and when the last, lazy Sunday came around, we gathered ’round the television and watched some reruns of Good Eats. The episode that stuck with me the most was one in which Alton Brown did all sorts of things with one of my favorite substances of all time: honey. He baked a honey cake, talked about bees, but the thing that got into my head was a simple mixture of honey and Dijon mustard that he recommended for salads or chicken fingers. Days went by, and I couldn’t get that craving out of my head — so I decided to whisk a batch up and combine Alton’s salad and chicken finger ideas into one glorious plate. Not wanting to fry the chicken, I decided to do the next best thing: coat some chicken breasts in Panko, the Japanese-style bread crumbs that make everything better, and throw in a little Parmesan cheese for flavor and cohesiveness. The results were outstanding.

Alton Brown’s Honey-Dijon Dressing

  • 5 tablespoons honey (we used some really good stuff from Whole Foods)
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (we used some really cheap stuff from Kroger because I had a coupon)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (we used regular rice vinegar from Mr. Chen’s)

Whisk everything until blended. Yes, it really is this simple. Why would you ever buy honey-mustard at the store again when you can make it at home — especially since you can play around with different kinds of honey to change the flavor of this wonderful concoction?

For the chicken, create a coating with 1 cup panko and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Toss in some herbs de Provence if you have some. In a separate bowl, mix together 1 egg and another tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Salt and pepper your chicken, dip into the egg/mustard mixture, then coat with the panko/Parmesan. Bake on a wire rack atop a cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes at 375. Let rest, slice thin, and build your salad. Enjoy!

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Mashed parsnips, baby broccoli, seared tuna

IMG_9228The parsnip is one of the most underrated vegetables around. Looking like fat, white carrots, this humble root vegetable is far more delicious and versatile. Sweet, slightly peppery, and milder than root veggies like turnips, the parsnip is a good addition to any plate. Tonight we’re doing them in a classic style: mashed. These mashed parsnips are simple and quick, and they make a nice change from potatoes.

In addition to the parsnips, we’ve done a bit of medium-rare seared sashimi-grade tuna along with some baby broccoli that we steamed and then sauteed with a little soy sauce. The result is a light, colorful plate that hits all the notes we want from a balanced meal — savory, sweet, earthy, and bright in flavors; earthy, unctuous, and slightly grassy for mouthfeel. And the whole meal didn’t take longer than a half hour to make.

Mashed parsnips

  • IMG_92361 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk (or cream)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a kettle of salted water to the boil and add the parsnips, boiling until tender. To keep your finished product warmer, have the butter at room temperature, and heat your milk in the microwave until warm. Drain the parsnips and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the milk, butter, parsley, salt and pepper, and tarragon. Mash with a potato masher, fork, or use a hand mixer until the parsnips have reached your desired consistency. Because they are more fibrous than potatoes, you probably won’t get them perfectly creamy, but I kind of like mine to retain some texture anyway. Serve immediately.

For the tuna, just salt and pepper on both sides, then sear in a hot cast iron pan for 3 minutes or so each side. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. For the broccoli, steam in the microwave (which really works best) for 3 minutes, then saute with a healthy dollop of olive oil and soy sauce until the soy sauce clings to the vegetables. Slice the tuna thin and serve. Happy cooking!

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Braised chard, honey-ginger glazed carrots, and filet mignon

IMG_9217 (683x1024)The filet isn’t my favorite cut of beef (that would be the ribeye), but I do enjoy them from time to time — especially when I come a across a couple for a good price as I did tonight. We’ve talked before about how to make a good steak, so I’ll just sum up the process in a few words: good oil, hot cast iron, and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Of greater interest to me tonight are the side dishes. I wasn’t really in the mood for a meat-and-potatoes dinner, and when I stumbled onto some lovely rainbow carrots and Arkansas-grown baby chard at the market tonight, I knew just what I wanted to do — glaze those carrots with ginger-flavored honey to add sweetness to the plate and braise the chard with a lot of garlic and lemon to add some colorful and tangy brightness. Both preparations are quite simple, but quite delicious.

Honey-ginger glazed carrots

  • IMG_9215 (683x1024)1 pound carrots. I used a bunch of multicolored ones, but the good old orange variety are just fine.
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

Scrub and peel the carrots, then cut them on the diagonal to form medallions. Toss them with the olive oil and salt and roast them in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes, until just tender and starting to brown. In a saucepan, heat the honey, butter, and ginger over medium heat and cook until the butter stops foaming and the ginger begins to turn translucent. Add the carrots, stirring to coat with the honey mixture. Cook for 5 minutes until the carrots are nicely glazed. Try not to drink the honey mixture — it’s really good.

Braised baby chard

  • IMG_9227 (683x1024)4 cups baby chard, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh lemon

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes, taking care not to brown it. Add the chard, stirring to coat the greens with the oil and distribute the garlic evenly. When the chard begins to wilt, squeeze the half-lemon over the pan, stirring well once again to coat. When the leaves begin to give off liquid, the chard is done. Various types of vinegar can also be used to add a bit of acidity to these greens — play around to see what tastes you like the most.

In the end, the side dishes we made tonight wound up being a bigger star than the steaks — although the steaks were pretty good. Pan-wilted greens are a lovely addition to any plate, both for the eyes and the tongue, and the natural sweetness of carrots is made only better by the addition of honey. Happy cooking!

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