Pan-Fried Chicken with Bacon and Thyme Gravy

Happy Monday, y’all!  I hope you all had a lovely weekend.  Mine was all right, if lonely – Beloved is still out of town on business and won’t be home until Friday.  I spent my time doing some housework, cooking and making some changes in my little corner of the blogosphere.  Most notably, I moved all of my “old” recipes out of the recipe category and gave them their own page; if you look up at the menu bar you’ll see a new link: Real SAD.  You can click on it if you want an explanation, and a listing of all the recipes posted prior to June 2010.  There will be a couple of other changes, but you’ll see more of those later this week.

As for the cooking part of my weekend, this was dinner Saturday night – and my, was it good.  I’d taken some boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer and was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them; if I asked The Young One, I’d have gotten the answer, “Smother them in bacon, barbecue sauce and cheese.”  Which is pretty much how he got his.  I, on the other hand, wanted something a little more sophisticated than my son’s favorite preparation of this rather bland but versatile source of protein – perhaps something with a nice sauce or gravy?

I found a recipe in a very old issue of Bon Appetit for Pan-Fried Chicken with Bacon and Thyme Gravy that sounded quite comforting and tasty, but it called for white flour, cornmeal, vegetable oil and canned chicken broth.  I felt it had potential, though, and decided to try and make it my own with healthy ingredients.  My attempt was successful; this is a lovely dish – the chicken is tender and moist, the thyme goes together really well with the sweet onion and smokey bacon and the gravy (well, I guess it’s really a sauce), while rich, is neither heavy nor overpowering.

I served this over grated cauliflower that I’d sauteed in a little lard with some onion and thinly sliced sugar snap peas, but it would go really well on a base of steamed rice or mashed potatoes, if you’re so inclined.

Pan-Fried Chicken with Bacon and Thyme Gravy

Pan-Fried Chicken with Bacon and Thyme Gravy

serves 3

3 skinless boneless chicken breasts, about 5 ounces each
3 thick bacon slices, chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon lard or other cooking fat
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper, to taste

Begin by butterflying the chicken breasts. Lay a chicken breast on a cutting board in front of you, smooth side down. Remove the tenderloin, if necessary; you will probably be able to simply pull it off, although you may need to cut if free at one end. Save the tenderloin for another use.

Turn the breast over with the narrow, pointed tip facing you and the thinner side opposite your cutting hand. Place your hand on top of the breast. Carefully insert the knife into the thickest part of the breast, and draw it almost all the way through the breast. Take care to keep the breast attached on one side.

Open the breast like a book and, if needed, use the broad side of a cook’s knife or the smooth side of a meat mallet to even out the butterflied breast, by lightly pounding the flesh until it’s an even thickness. Repeat until all 3 breasts have been butterflied; season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cook bacon in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion to the drippings in the pan. Cook until soft and golden, about 3 minutes; using the same slotted spoon, remove it to the paper towel with the bacon.

Increase the heat to medium high once more and add the lard or other cooking fat at to the pan. Add the chicken to the skillet and pan-fry until browned and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate, cover and keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the chicken stock, bacon, onion and thyme to the pan, stirring occasionally until the mixture is hot. In a small bowl, whisk the arrowroot into the water with a fork, and add it to the liquid in the skillet. Stir constantly until the mixture is thickened to the desired consistency; taste, season with salt and pepper if needed and remove from the heat.

Slice the chicken breasts into strips; plate and ladle the gravy over top, and serve.

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Posted in participation with Hartke Is Online’s Weekend Gourmet Blog Carnival

Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

Pork Mole Stew

Yes, you’re getting another recipe today – I was going to do my Spin Cycle post, but it’s not quite ready.  I also woke up at 1 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep until nearly 5, something that usually happens the first night Beloved’s gone on a trip, and I’m a bit on the tired side.  So you get this week’s third recipe…and it’s a “wowzer.”

I know you all think I’m crazy (okay, you all know I’m crazy) to be posting a stew recipe on the second day of summer, but I made this Monday night to use up the leftover molé sauce I’d made Sunday – I’d made Molé Roasted Cornish Game Hens (it’ll be in the cookbook when it comes out) for Beloved’s Father’s Day dinner – as well as some pork loin chops I had no idea what to do with and kale from our CSA which was in danger of turning yellow if I didn’t use it right away.  And I have to tell you, this was SO good it deserves its own recipe, molé sauce and all.

I know the list of ingredients and the long instructions may be a bit intimidating, but it’s not nearly as hard as as it looks, just time consuming.  You may also look at it and say, “Hey – this molé has no chocolate in it!” There are many kinds of molés, and generally only molé negro (black molé) has chocolate in it – this is a molé colorado, or brown molé, and is my very favorite.  It is certainly worth hunting down dried Ancho chiles and plantains, which are pretty scarce up here in northeast Ohio (although we did find some at a “natural foods market” in Akron) or I’d make it much more often.

Note: If you don’t eat pork, this would be really quite good with bone-in chicken thighs, which is probably a little more traditional anyway.

Pork Mole Stew

Pork Molé Stew

serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork tenderloin, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons lard or other cooking fat
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cups water
2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups kale, stems removed and torn into pieces

Mole Sauce:
3 large dried Ancho Chiles
hot water to cover
2 tablespoons lard or other cooking fat, divided
8 raw, unskinned almonds
1/2 large very ripe plantain
2 medium tomatoes, cored and roasted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade

Heat the 2 tablespoons of lard in a heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot. Liberally sprinkle the cubed pork with the salt and pepper; add it to the Dutch oven and sear the cubes on all sides until brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion, cooking just until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute more, then add the chicken stock and enough of the water to cover the pork. Reduce the heat to a simmer; cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

While the pork is cooking, begin the mole sauce. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and lightly toast the chilies, turning them from time to time so they do not burn. While they are still pliable, slit them open and remove the stem, seeds and veins. Cover them with hot water and let them soak for about 15 to 20 minutes.

In the same skillet, toast the clove of garlic until golden brown, taking care not to burn it. Halve it, removing any green that may be in the center. Set aside.
4 Add 1 tablespoons of the lard to the skillet and fry the almonds until they are well browned, stirring frequently so they do not burn. Crush them slightly and set aside. Skin the plantain, slice it lengthwise and fry it until golden on both sides.

Place the plantains, almonds and broiled tomatoes into a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth puree; add a little water if necessary. Scrape the puree into a small bowl and set aside.

Without washing the mixer or food processor, blend the chilies with ½ cup of the water used to soak them, the spices and garlic to a smooth puree.

Heat the other tablespoon of lard in the skillet and cook the chili puree on high heat about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the tomato/plantain mixture and then return to the heat, cooking for about 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring all the time so it does not stick (be careful, it can spatter about some).

Stir the cup of the chicken broth gradually into the sauce and continue cooking it for a minute or so. At this point you can strain it through a coarse sieve, but if you choose not to, that is fine; it will have a nice, rustic texture if left unstrained. Heat the sauce over low heat, salting to taste, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Once the pork is tender, add the sweet potatoes to the Dutch oven and just enough water to cover, if necessary. Cover the pan and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are almost fork tender. Gently stir in the mole sauce and kale and continue cooking, uncovered, until the kale is wilted and tender, but still slightly chewy, and the sweet potatoes are cooked through.

Serve in bowls garnished with more of the fried plantain, if desired. This can be made ahead and reheated the next day – the flavor will be even better.

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Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

Rustic Apple Tart

Hello, everyone!  I hope all of my U.S. readers had a great holiday weekend, and I hope the rest of you are having a great not-Monday.  🙂  We had a nice time; I got to meet a friend I’ve known online for ten years this Saturday!  Linda, Beloved and I cannot wait to get together with y’all again!   Also, as you can see from yesterday’s post, we got to spend most of our weekend with (a very energetic) The G Man.  Jolly told us he’d spend all day outside if he could, so…we spent a lot of time outside.  Many photos are forthcoming.

We also did a great deal of cooking – we smoked a pork shoulder, a chicken and four racks of ribs and grilled enough brats on Monday to feed a small, third world country (or our family). (Can we say “leftovers”?)  And since it’s not a summertime cookout without some sort of a dessert, I made this.  The tart is neither low in calories or carbohydrates, but it contains fewer of both and is far more nutritious than a conventional apple pie – and it was absolutely delicious.  Jolly, who adores apple pie but is one of my “picky eaters,” ate two large slices – and she normally won’t eat nuts.

The crust is made from almond flour, coconut oil (you can use butter if you eat dairy) and coconut sugar; the filling is apples, spices, coconut sugar and arrowroot powder.  Coconut sugar is made from the sweet sap of coconut trees, processed at low temperatures just long enough for it to crystallize.  It has nearly half the calories and carbohydrates of regular granulated sugar, is only 1.5% fructose (as opposed to 50% in regular sugar) and is an abundant source of minerals, amino acids, vitamin C, and broad-spectrum B vitamins.  It also does not taste like coconut – the flavor is very reminiscent of brown sugar.

While this dish doesn’t fall into the “quick and easy preparation” category, it certainly isn’t any more time consuming or difficult than making an apple pie entirely entirely from scratch – and made with coconut oil, is completely gluten-free, egg-free and dairy-free.

Note: If you want to make this tart using “conventional” methods, make a standard graham-cracker crust and replace the coconut sugar with about 3/4 the same amount of brown sugar.  If you must.

Rustic Apple Tart
Rustic Apple Tart Slice

Rustic Apple Tart

serves 10

3 cups almond flour
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup coconut sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt

5 medium Granny Smith apple, halved, cored and cut into 1/4″ slices
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease an 11″ x 1 1/8″ fluted tart pan with removable bottom with butter or coconut oil. Set aside.

Place the apple slices in a large glass mixing bowl; toss with the coconut sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until all of the slices are coasted and the sugar is beginning to dissolve. Let the apple slices macerate in the sugar for at least half an hour, but no longer than an hour. Stir occasionally.

While the apples are macerating, place the butter/coconut oil in a small microwave-safe bowl; heat on 1/2 power until melted (take care removing the bowl from the microwave – it will be hot). In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, coconut sugar and salt; add the butter/coconut oil gradually, stirring with a fork until it has been completely incorporated and the mixture is damp and has a crumbly texture. Evenly press the crust mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the greased tart pan. Set aside.

Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over another bowl for about 15 minutes, capturing the juice. You should have between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of liquid. Return the apples to the original bowl and toss with the arrowroot. Once the apple slices are coated arrange them, overlapping slightly, in the tart pan in spiral pattern, beginning at the outer edges and working toward the center, until are the apples are used.
In a small saucepan over over medium-high heat, boil the liquid from the apples until syrupy and reduced by about half; swirl the liquid but do not stir it. Pour evenly over the apples arranged in the crust.

Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is browned and firm, and the apple slices are easily pierced with a fork.

Cool on a rack until room temperature, then refrigerate until cold before removing the fluted sides of the pan and serving. Cover any leftovers with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.

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Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kops’ Real Food Wednesday