“Cold-Smoked” Chicken with Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce

Bobby Flay has a new cookbook, “Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook,” chock-full of recipes from his New York restaurant Bar Americain.  We’ve never been to his restaurant, but we’re big fans of his recipes from his other books.  He has a creative, yet no-nonsense and relatively simple approach to cooking that we find easy to adapt to our home cooking and grilling.  Although many restaurant-based cookbooks can be quite intimidating, this first recipe we tried from Chef Flay’s book wasn’t difficult at all, and the result was restaurant-quality food at home.  The chicken was perfectly roasted with a slightly smoky flavor, and the black pepper vinegar sauce was one of the best sauces for chicken we’ve ever tasted.  The sauce is the star of this dish and it is crazy simple to make.  It might also be good as a salad dressing.  Heck, I could almost drink it, it’s so good.

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Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Now that it’s officially Fall and the temps are finally under 100 degrees, it’s time to dust off our slow-cooker and indulge in more comfort food recipes.  We found this one in the book “Slowcook” and adapted it after researching some other beef stroganoff recipes online.  We love how the flavor turned out — rich and meaty — but the sauce was a little more thin and broth-y than we would prefer.  We talked about creative ways to thicken it up next time — saute the mushrooms before adding them to the pot or do something different with the flour — but concluded that the easiest solution is also the most obvious.  Next time we make it, we’ll put in less beef broth and that should do the trick.  As Homer Simpson would say, “S-M-R-T!”  Update:  We got a super smart tip from our good friends Paula and Matt — use cream cheese instead of sour cream.  Adds more flavor and might help thicken up the sauce.  Thanks Guys!

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Greek Food Festival of Dallas

There is a huge Greek Orthodox Church near our house that has held an annual Greek Food Festival for the past 55 years.  For the 5 years that we’ve lived in our current neighborhood, we would see the signs advertising the festival each year and always mean to attend, but never got around to it, until this year.  Dan’s mom was in town this past weekend and we thought it would be a nice little outing for the 3 of us.  We were right — it was a gorgeous sunny day and we enjoyed sampling Greek food, shopping for Greek wares and touring the beautiful Orthodox church.  We’ll be back next year.

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Tortellini with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Prosciutto

We’re always looking for new sources of recipes for easy but delicious weeknight meals.  On a recent trip to the grocery store, we found a magazine titled “30-Minute Suppers” by Cook’s Illustrated.  The source is an old favorite, but the magazine itself is new (and should still be available in stores until October, if you’re interested.)  Cook’s Illustrated’s cookbook “The Best 30-Minute Recipe” is one of our most-used books, so we figured the magazine would have lots of recipes we would enjoy as well.  So far, we have tried two recipes from the magazine and were happy with the resulting meals that tasted like they took a lot of effort, but were on the table in just half an hour.  We liked the combination of flavors and textures in this tortellini dish very much:  cheesy tortellini, peppery arugula, sweet and slightly chewy sun-dried tomatoes, crispy prosciutto, bright lemon and rich olive oil.  The only thing we would change is to create more of a sauce for the finished dish.  Next time we make it we’ll see if we can tweak the recipe a bit and post an update here.

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Lobster Cobb Salad (with leftover lobster)

We found this recipe in Ina Garten’s cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa Family Style,” and loved it.  Ina recommends that you “make this elegant salad when your mother-in-law comes for lunch,” but unfortunately, my mother-in-law doesn’t prefer lobster.  More for me!  Only kidding (Hi Elaine!) — you can also make this salad with chicken or shrimp and it will still be delicious and decadent.  We think it’s the combination of Dijon in the dressing, bacon and blue cheese topping, peppery arugula and creamy avocado that make this salad exceptional.  As Ina says, “this is a special meal for times when you really want to please someone.”

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Grilled Buffalo Wings

Dan’s favorite season has finally begun.  No, not Fall — it’s Football Season!  While I don’t share Dan’s love of the NFL, his penchant for watching games allllllll day on Sunday, or his obsession with tracking the scores from BOTH of his fantasy football leagues, I will support the marriage team by watching Steeler games, and I do enjoy the food that comes with this time of year.  This season, we decided to cook some of our football-watching bar food favorites at home, starting with buffalo wings.  We researched several recipes, expecting to find at least one with some secret ingredient for making the buffalo sauce so delicious.  Turns out that there really is no secret, or if there is a special ingredient, it’s being kept secret.  Pretty much all the recipes we found called for the simple combination of “hot sauce,” butter and vinegar.  In some recipes, the wings were grilled, others called for frying them, and some required baking them in the oven.  In the interest of making them just a teeny bit more healthy, we decided to grill our wings.  The resulting grill flavor complemented the buffalo sauce nicely.  We’ll make these again and maybe tweak the sauce a bit to come up with our own secret ingredient. 

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Pate de Campagne (Country Pate)

When we found out that this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was paté, we were more than a little intimidated.  Paté is not something we’re familiar with at all, not having ever eaten it (except maybe a random taste from a cheese plate, just to be polite and sample everything) and certainly never having cooked it.  But the whole point of undertaking these challenges is for us to cook, and eat, outside our comfort zone.  And, in a weird way, we felt like we might disappoint the Charcutepalooza founders Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy if we skipped it.  Sort of like disappointing your favorite teacher in school.  So we decided to give it a shot, and we’re glad we did!  The paté was good, and most importantly, did not dry out.  That’s the challenging part of this month’s endeavor — packing the meat and other ingredients in the terrine so that there aren’t any air pockets to dry out your end result.  We’re proud to say that we successfully made paté, in addition to all the other charcuterie challenges we have accomplished.  We may not have always liked the end result (I’m looking at you, Seafood Mousseline), but we have really enjoyed the Charcutepalooza process and appreciate all the techniques we have learned.  One thing we discovered is that paté is actually pretty easy to make, and with endless possibilities of ingredient and flavor combinations, we’ll definitely make it again sometime.

To prepare for our first foray into paté-making, we bought some at Central Market so we could see how it’s “supposed” to taste. Plus, Dan is a bit of a scientist at heart and wanted a “control sample” against which we could measure our own rendition. Turns out the control sample is supposed to taste like the worst liver you’ve ever tasted. I could barely swallow the one bite I was able to take. Luckily, not all patés are alike, and when we searched Ruhlman’s charcuterie book and saw a pate recipe with the introduction that “liver is a seasoning device here rather than the dominant flavor,” we knew we found a winner.

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“Italian Sub” Chop Salad

Sub, hoagie, grinder, hero — whatever you like to call it, Dan is a big fan of this type of sandwich, especially when filled with Italian meats, a little provolone cheese, assorted veggies and accompanied by Italian dressing.  While he likes a good sub sandwich, I’m more of a salad girl.  I especially like a good chop salad, where all the ingredients are chopped up small enough that you get a little taste of each component in every bite.  This salad is a nice compromise between our taste preferences — I get the chop salad texture while Dan gets the Italian sub flavor.  Win win.  Even better, the chop salad is really versatile and can be made with whatever ingredients you prefer or happen to have on hand — no recipe required.  The ingredients that work to create a salad that tastes like a sandwich Dan would order from our local pizza joint include:  lettuce, celery, cucumber, red onion, pepperoncini, kalamata olives, provolone cheese, salami — all tossed with a creamy Italian dressing.

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