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This may be one of the easiest, yet elegant chicken-for-a-party dishes.  The olives add a hint of saltiness, while the prunes add a touch of sweetness.  These distinctive Mediterranean flavours complement the chicken beautifully — its a rare occasion when you serve this at a potluck that at least one person does not ask for the recipe.

Marinating the chicken overnight is key – it helps keep the chicken moist and allows the flavours to deepen. And yes, you read correctly, the recipe calls for one head of garlic. Serve it with a baguette or some rice to mop up the pan juices (essential).  I only wish I had a few more excuses to cook this chicken recipe from Silver Palate on a more regular basis…

Chicken Marbella

16 pieces, 10 or more portions

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives

1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice

6 bay leaves

1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed

1/4 cup dried oregano

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 chicken (2 1/2 pounds each), quartered

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley or fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Directions

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the chicken and stir to coat.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly.  Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar and pour the white wine around them.

Bake the chicken, basting frequently with the pan juices, until the thigh pieces yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice when pricked with a fork, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter.  Moisten with a few spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro.  Pass the remaining pan juices in a sauceboat. Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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Thanksgiving is perhaps my favourite holiday of the year.  I love the crisp air and colourful leaves and changing of the season.  More than any other holiday, I love the meaning behind this tradition – to reflect upon and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.  And importantly, it’s a great excuse to cook up a turkey feast to be served with good wine and eaten with good company!

Pumpkin Pie waiting to be eaten

If I survive my thesis proposal defence this Friday, my friend Alex and I will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for just over a dozen friends this weekend. No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without pumpkin pie.  Last weekend, I celebrated “Fake Thanksgiving” (one can never eat too many Thanksgiving dinners) – and decided to use the opportunity to test Silver Palate’s pumpkin pie recipe.   Perhaps the only thing better than one pumpkin pie is two.

Like any Silver Palate recipe, this pie was decadent, spiced to perfection and filled with a scary amount of cream (who would dare count calories on Thanksgiving anyways?). When I doubled the recipe, I had extra purred pumpkin, so I just added the extra to the filling, and the pie was extra pumpkiny.  One dangerous find was caramelized roasted pumpkin seeds from the Halifax market, which added a lovely crunch.  Served with whipping cream, this recipe aced the test, so I’ll definitely be whipping up another two pies this weekend for the real deal!

Silver Palate’s Pumpkin Pie

(makes one 9-inch pie)

Ingredients:

3 eggs

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 cups canned pureed pumpkin (make sure you buy unseasoned pumpkin puree)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup half-and-half

1 unbaked pie crust

For garnish, pecan halves and toasted pumpkin seeds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 Farhenheit. Beat the eggs and both sugars together in a mixing bowl, until light and fluffy.  Stir in the pumpkin puree, spices, and salt and mix thoroughly.  Stir in the cream and half-and-half.

Roll out the pastry on a slightly floured work surface and line a 9-inch bake pan with it; trim and crimp the edges.  Pour in the filling.

Bake the pie for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 Fahrenheit and bake until the filling is set and slightly puffed (a knive inserted in the center will come out clean), another 40 to 45 minutes.

Arrange the pecan halves decoratively around the edges, pressing them lightly into the warm filling.  Cool completely before cutting.  Delicious served with whipped cream!

– Catherine

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I was invited to a potluck Easter supper and offered to bring an appetizer. I had some phyllo pastry leftover from the spanakopita I made last week, so I turned to the Internet for filling inspiration.  Creamy salmon filling repeatedly caught my eye, but I was not entirely satisfied with their recipes.  I suddenly remembered my favourite salmon mousse recipe, and though it would be ideal.

Silver Palate’s salmon mousse is decadent – the type of mousse you lick the bowl clean.  My family has long served this mousse at family potlucks and dinner parties, and it is always a winner.  It simply bursts with salmon flavour. Here, I’ve adjusted the recipe slightly – doubling the dill and onion.  Combined with the flaky phyllo, this salmon mousse just shines!  I’m already looking forward to Mother’s Day – the next time I’ll have an excuse to make this appetizer!

Flaky Phyllo Cups Stuffed with Salmon Mousse

(makes 36 cups)

Ingredients:

SALMON MOUSSE

1 envelope gelatin, unflavoured (I used Knox gelatin, near the Jello in most grocery stores)

1/4 cup water, cold

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 small onion, finely grated

1 dash Tabasco sauce

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup dill, finely chopped

2 cans of salmon, drained, skin and bones removed, and finely flaked (or substitute fresh poached salmon)

1 cup whipping cream

PHYLLO CUPS

8 sheets of phyllo pastry

1/4 cup melted butter

Directions:

SALMON MOUSSE

Soften the gelatin in the cold water in a large bowl.  Stir in the boiling water until the gelatin is fully dissolved.  Allow to cool to room temperature (either on its own, or put in freezer for 5 minutes).

Whisk in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, Tabasco, sweet paprika, salt, and dill. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly.

Fold into the salmon.  In a separate bowl, whip the cream.  Fold in thoroughly into salmon mixture.  Transfer to a clean bowl or into individual molds.  Cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

PHYLLO CUPS

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly grease 18 mini-muffin or tart tins with the butter.  Set aside.

Place one sheet of phyllo on a clean surface, keeping the remainder covered under a damp towel.  Brush it lightly with butter.  Repeat with three more sheets of phyllo until you have a stack four sheets thick, ending with butter.  Cut the phyllo into three lengthwise and six crosswise to make 18 squares.

Press the phyllo squares into the prepared cup. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until golden (watch carefully – they cook quickly!).  Let cool in cups, then transfer to a rack.  Repeat with the next four sheets of phyllo.

Before serving, fill each cup with a generous spoonful of mousse.  Garnish with dill.  Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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