Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chicken Cutlets with Grilled Caesar Salad Lyonnaise

I know what you are thinking . . . for being known as a cook for the everyday guy, as of late my posts have seemed a bit, well, complicated.  Though it may seem that way to some of you out there, rest assured I'm not turning into an all-out 'foodie'.  The day you catch me wearing a black turtleneck reading food blogs in a coffee-shop is the day that I will turn in my man card.

The fact of the matter is creating incredible meals is all about starting with great ingredients.  With summertime in full bloom, I've been overwhelmed with the fresh quality of produce, eggs, cheese, etc. down at my local farmers market.  It's hard not to 'ramp up' the quality of your meals when you are working with such killer ingredients.

Summertime in the South = It's hot a hell.  Therefore, I like to create all-in-one dishes that encompass an entire meal.  So there, I've simplified things for you.  Don't worry about creating an appetizer or a salad to accompany this entree.  This dish stands on its own as a fairly quick weeknight dinner, however it's also elegant enough for any special occasion.

As always, I'll break it down for you step by step.  Walk slowly.

Chicken Cutlets
1 lb Chicken Cutlets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Coat cutlets with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil and season liberally on both sides with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Cover and set aside.

Caesar Dressing
2 Cloves Garlic, minced fine
1 - 2 Anchovy Filets, minced fine
1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Egg
1/2 Lemon, juiced
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire 
1/4 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

On a cutting board, combine the minced garlic, anchovies, and kosher salt.  Using the flat side of the chef's knife (sharp edge away from you), work ingredients into a paste on the board.  Combine paste, egg, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce into a large mixing bowl or food processor and whisk/mix vigorously for at least one minute, until mixture is smooth and even in color.  Add cheese and pepper and mix for another 30 seconds.  Continue to whisk/mix and slowly stream in olive oil at the same time, to combine, or emulsify.  Set aside, or refrigerate for later use.

Salad Lyonnaise - this salad is traditionally made with bacon, its rendered fat, and served along with croutons and a poached egg over frisée salad.  I've changed mine up a bit, but still incorporated my favorite part with the poached egg.
2 Hearts of Romaine, cut in half
2 Vine Ripe Tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 Large Eggs

#1.  Prepare chicken breasts and salad dressing per the instructions above.
#2.  Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Fill a small pot with at least three inches of water and bring to a slow simmer over medium heat.
#3.  Grill.  Add hearts of romaine to grill, cut side down, and grill until slightly charred, about 1 minute.  Remove from grill and plate, arranging wedged tomatoes on the side.  Add chicken cutlets to the grill over direct heat and cook for 1 minute, turn cutlets 45 degrees and cook for another minute (creating nice grill marks).  Flip cutlets and cook for another 1 - 2 minutes, or until chicken is firm to the touch, or until internal temperature has reached 165 degrees F.  Set aside cutlets to rest; tent with foil to keep warm.
#4.  Poach.  Carefully crack and slip each egg into the pot of slowly simmering water.  If necessary, use a wooden spoon to gently nudge the egg whites closer to the yolk.  Allow eggs to simmer for 2 - 3 minutes for over-easy.
#5.  Plate.  Generously pour prepared Caesar dressing over the grilled romaine and tomatoes.  Top grilled greens with a poached egg.  Place a few chicken cutlets on the opposing side and serve.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fresh Clams over Linguine

It's time to branch out beyond the standard seafood fare of fish, shrimp, and scallops.  Out of habit, or out of fear, most of us tend to stick with what we know - especially with regards to food.

I decided to change things up a bit this weekend by creating a pasta around fresh littleneck clams.  Honestly, preparing clams couldn't be easier, and because they are often neglected by consumers, most markets are willing to offer these little guys at a very reasonable price.  The next time you are considering paying $15 - $20 per pound for jumbo shrimp or sea scallops, pick up a bag of clams.  Their sweet and delicate meat is sure to satisfy you and your beautiful dining partner.

I upped the ante by stopping off to visit Tom Lazzaroli to pick up some of his fresh linguine at Lazzaroli pasta.  I went with his straw/hay variety to add a bit more color to the final product.  As always, Tom's pasta was perfect.  For those outside of Nashville, do a little research on Italian markets in your hometown. Whenever possible, it's always best to use fresh ingredients.

I created a simple appetizer with a few odds and ends I had lying around.  Toasted French bread, sliced Salumi Hot Soppressatta, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and a jarred bruschetta mix a friend of mine brought back for me from Paris.  Sounds fancy, but incredibly easy.  4 kick-ass ingredients, simply served together.

Finally, I paired everything up with a nice French Bourgogne Blanc (Chardonnay) wine.  An oak-y California Chardonnay or a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc would also work nicely.

Fresh Clams over Linguine - when working with clams, it's important to only use those that are tightly closed.  Discard any clams that have opened before cooking.  Serve some toasted French bread on the side of this meal to 'sop' up the juices from the bottom of the bowl.  

Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
8 oz Fresh Linguine Pasta
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1 Lemon, zest and juice
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Chopped Italian Parsley
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine (see above)
25 - 30 Fresh Littleneck Clams, thoroughly rinsed
2 Tablespoons Cold Unsalted Butter, diced
Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated 

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.  Meanwhile, in a large stainless skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil; heat until oil runs fast and shimmers in the pan.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest and saute 45 seconds - 1 minute, careful not to brown.  Next add diced tomatoes, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and simmer until mixture is reduced by half; about 3 minutes.  Add wine and chopped parsley and simmer for another 2 - 3 minutes; add a pinch of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.  Add clams to mixture, cover tightly, and cook 4 -5 minutes, or until clam shells have completely opened.  Add pasta to boiling water and cook until just under al dente, 3 - 4 minutes.  When clams have opened and pasta is cooked, strain pasta and add into the pan with the clams and sauce; add butter.  Thoroughly toss pasta with the other ingredients to ensure an even coat.  Garnish with remaining parsley and top with grated cheese to taste.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Grilled Shrimp Nachos + The Beach

A few shots from paradise . . . and an incredible recipe to enjoy either at home or with a few cold beers and friends on the beach.

Whenever you are cooking outdoors, it's best to prep as much as possible in advance at home.  This keeps your actual time away from friends & fun (cooking) to a minimum, and it also ensures you don't get to your location only to realize you are not prepared.  In this instance, I went ahead and prepped the shrimp, guacamole, and pico before hitting the beach.  Toss everything in a cooler that needs to be chilled and you are all set.  If preparing at home, follow the same process using a grill pan over medium-high heat on the stove, and finish things off in an oven heated to 425 degrees F.

Fair warning - these nachos are killer, but they do take some work.  Plan on 30 minutes of prep at home, and 15 - 20 minutes for assembly/cooking at the beach.

The key to great nachos is to ensure an even distribution of ingredients, so that each bite is consistent.  One of the biggest mistakes people make is creating a huge pile of chips with all of the ingredients loaded on top.  Of course, this creates that awkward group eating situation where one person goes for all of the good ingredients with every bite, only to leave behind a pile of chips for everyone else (you know who you are).  Instead, create layers by starting with chips, followed by a generous portion of beans and cheese.  As you work your way to the top, you can add your final ingredients, but rest assured, the bottom of the pile won't be a bland pile of chips.  Just trying to keep everyone happy out there.

Crack open a cold beer, and let's get to work.

Recipe serves 5 - 7 people

Prep (Shrimp, Guacamole, Pico)

3 lbs Large Shrimp
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lime, juiced
1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin Powder

Peel and devein shrimp; add to a large Ziplock back.  Add the remaining ingredients, toss to combine, and keep sealed and refrigerated (in cooler) until ready for use.

2 Cloves Garlic, minced 
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
3 Large Ripe Hass Avocados, seeded and diced
1 Tablespoon Cilantro, diced
1/4 Medium Red Onion, finely diced
1 Lime, juiced

On a cutting board, combine kosher salt and minced garlic.  Using the flat side of a chef's knife, press down on the garlic - allowing the salt to work as an abrasive - working the knife back and forth until the garlic is broken down and forms a paste, about 1 - 2 minutes.  Add garlic paste to a bowl.  Combine the remaining ingredients into the bowl along with the garlic paste.  Using a fork, carefully mash together ingredients, leaving some chunks of avocado, until mixture is smooth and well combined.  Add more lime juice and salt to taste.  Place plastic wrap directly over the guacamole to prevent from browning, and store chilled until ready for use.

Pico de Gallo
3 Ripe Roma Tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 Medium Red Onion, finely diced
1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lime, juiced
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, toss to combine, cover, and store chilled until ready for use.  Add more lime juice or salt to taste, if necessary.

Grilled Shrimp Nachos
1 Large Bag Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips
1 Large Bag Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
2 Cans Black Beans, drained
4 lbs Grated Cheese (Monterey Jack, Colby, Cheddar)
Shrimp, marinated
Sour Cream, Guacamole, Salsa, Pico (on the side)
2 Large Disposable Aluminum Lasagna Baking Pans
Aluminum Foil

On a charcoal/gas grill over direct heat, grill shrimp until just done (firm and pink), about 1 - 2 minutes per side.  Remove shrimp from grill, cover, and set aside.  Begin assembling nachos by placing a layer of chips in the bottom of each tray.  Top with a generous portion of black beans and cheese.  Repeat with another layer of chips, beans, and cheese.  Next, top with grilled shrimp and pico.  Cover trays with aluminum foil and place on the grill over indirect heat, cover, and cook until cheese is melted and ingredients are heated through, about 4 - 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve alongside sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and remaining pico.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Skip Hopkins Photography

Happy to have finally done some work with friend, and Nashville based portrait artist Skip Hopkins.  We took a few of these shots last week for a new project I'm working on and Skip did a great job.  He'll be relocating to LA in a few weeks, but still booking shoots where needed.  Check his stuff out here.  A special thanks to my good friend Mary Elizabeth for letting us shoot in her incredible kitchen!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Been a busy few weeks wrapping up some loose ends and doing some traveling.  Always good to get out and enjoy tastes from different parts of the country.  Definitely picking up some inspiration here and there to share in the very near future.

Excited to announce we are taking some new photos for "And for Breakfast" today.  Here's a small preview of some of the stuff I've been working on.

Heading back to the beach tomorrow for several days.  More upon my return.

Keep peaceful!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Tennessean

For those who missed the July 4th feature in The Tennessean, check it out here including photos and recipes perfect for any summer cookout.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

4th of July

Headed to the beach for a long holiday weekend.  Thankful to all of the brave men and women who have sacrificed to allow us to enjoy freedom and relaxation with friends and family.

The Tennessean will be running a feature on yours truly in Sunday's (July 4th) paper.  If you are looking for some inspiration for your holiday cookout, I've got you covered.  You will find my recipes for Simply Grilled American Cheeseburgers, Oven Roasted Fries, and a Grilled Peach and Blueberry Crisp Cobbler.  Of course, all of this goes better with some cold beers and friends.  To America!

AY Magazine will be featuring the book in their upcoming August issue.  For those outside of Arkansas, this is the best and most read lifestyle magazine in the state.  Check it out online!

I'm actually lucky to enjoy two upcoming back to back weekends at the beach.  I imagine some new seafood recipes will be posted upon my return.

In the meantime, I've been knocking out the manuscript for my next work, "And for Breakfast".  Yes, it's hilarious.  Yes, you (and her) will start eating breakfast.

More good stuff in the works!  Stay tuned and keep peaceful.