I try to prepare most if not all of my meals at home; it tastes much better than anything you could buy on the road, is cheaper and there is the added benefit of knowing exactly what went in. Cooking at home everyday does however, have its hiccups, but planning and having certain key ingredients on hand can remedy most of the problems that may arise.
A couple things I’ve learned:
- A can of diced tomatoes can be your best friend: I never used to buy canned tomatoes, I always try to buy fresh produce as far as possible, but the tomatoes that are canned are the sweetest of the bunch as they are picked at the peak of the season which translates into amazing flavour. Saute a chopped onions; add sliced/diced chorizo (pepperoni or any sausage of your choice); then add a can of diced tomatoes; season; simmer, done!
- Herbs and spices are a must! I love Indian food, so naturally, my pantry is always chock full of a myriad of hard and ground spices. Most of the times I choose a spice and build a dish around that. When I have a little more time on my hands I make my own spice blends, I especially Morrocan spice blends and use this recipe whenever I need to make a batch.
- Stock is great for imparting flavour in almost any dish: from risotto to stews, stock is the number 1 easy fix. Making your own stock can be somewhat time consuming, but its much cheaper and healthier to do so, make up a big batch on the weekend and freeze it in the portions that you are most likely to use at any given time.
- Slow roasted anything is a breeze: be it a whole chicken, pork butt or ribs, season it in the morning, toss it in the oven on low heat and eat it when you get home.
- Portioning meat, saves money: many times, as a result of failing to plan, I end up buying trays of a particular cut of meat in the supermarket, they’re chilled, I take them home, trim them if necessary then in minutes I done. BUT, these trays are soooooo much more expensive than if I’d bought a whole chicken (or two) and broke it down and portioned out myself so when I have the time I go the whole chicken route.
Let me leave it at that for now, I could go on forever but I think I should save some for a next post.
I quickly pulled this together yesterday evening.
I recently discovered Panko and love the beautiful golden crust it gives the chicken. I had never tried butternut squash before and felt like experimenting, it tastes like a mild pumpkin crossed with zucchini, the flavour is really mild so the currants stole the show not to say that the squash didn’t make for an absolutely beautiful presentation, but maybe next time I’ll add more squash.
Here are the recipes:
Panko Crusted Chicken
4 deboned chicken breasts
1T kosher salt (more or less according to taste)
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2C – 2C panko
Olive oil, as needed
1. Pour the vinegar into the milk and set aside for 10 minutes. Alternatively you could use 2C buttermilk.
2. Clean and trim chicken if necessary and place in a shallow dish, sprinkle with half the salt, turn pieces over and sprinkle with remaining salt.
3. Pour the milk over the chicken turning the pieces over once. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least two hours (can be left to marinate overnight).
4. When ready to prepare chicken, set up the “breading station”; place the panko and beaten eggs into shallow dishes next to each other and preheat oven to 130F.
5. Drain the chicken (you can pat it dry if you want but I didn’t do this). Dip the chicken into the beaten eggs then place in the panko turning over a couple of times to coat. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
6. Pour some olive oil into a skillet (enough to come up to a height of about 3mm, I know, the technical drawing student in me still does that) and place over medium heat, when hot enough, put in the chicken (it may be necessary to do this batches), they should take about 5 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the other. Remove from oil and keep warm in oven until ready to serve.
Butternut Squash & Currant Cous Cous
2T olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
1 1/2C butternut squash, medium diced
1/3C currants, plumped in hot water and drained
1 14oz can chicken stock (or 1 3/4C homemade chicken or vegetable stock)
A handful of lemon basil leaves, roughly chopped
1C cous cous
Salt to taste
1. Heat oil and butter in skillet. When the butter has melted, add the onions and saute for about 2 minutes.
2. Add the squash and heat for another 2 minutes. Add about 1/4C of the stock to the squash and heat until all the stock has reduced, the squash soft be tender but not mushy, if still hard add some more of the stock and reduce again.
3. Add the currants, heat for a minute then add the remaining stock, season to taste with salt.
4. Once the stock comes to a boil, add the basil, off the heat and add the cous cous, stir to combine (once or twice, not too much) then cover and leave undisturbed for at least 10 minutes. Use a fork to fluff up the cous cous before serving.