My Communal Table

Chicken with Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce

My friend, Sarah, has been known to say, “Food is just the vehicle for the sauce.” This is one of those dishes. Twelve garlic cloves and lots of sage make this creamy mustard sauce the kind of stuff that you sop up with your bread and pour over your mashed potatoes. I was inspired by a fabulous Portuguese chef and restaurant owner, Marie Teresa Jorge. She also has a farm in Tuscany. I know, right… a farm in Tuscany. How cool is that?Her original recipe is on Food 52. I changed it up a bit, but what I still add wine and cognac and make a cream slurry in the end to give it a smooth finish. It is just so good.

I bought five amish sourced chicken thighs and legs for $3.17. Not organic, but no horomones or steroids were added. I made mashed potatoes with vegan butter and ricemilk, then topped with fried leeks. A simple salad with lemon vinaigrette compliment the creaminess of the chicken and potatoes. My friends brought the bread and wine. The lettuce and potatoes were from a local and organic source. This entire meal easily fed four adults and two children and was made up of under $8.00 of ingredients. This rustic lip smacking meal was fresh, easy to make and cheaper then feeding six people at McDonald’s. When I do the math and think about the health of my family, I can not believe that I ever go out for fast food. Oh and then I remember that I have moments of pure laziness. Oh, the guilt…

Serves 6

8 chicken thighs or 5-6 leg and thighs
12 garlic cloves with skin on
10 sage leaves
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Dijon Classic Mustard
2/3 cup White wine
1/3 cup Cognac
1 cup Chicken stock or water if you don’t have stock
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
black and white pepper

1. In a large enough pan, add the butter and the olive oil, the sage leaves and the garlics with the skin on them. When the butter starts to sizzle add the chicken thighs skin side down and let them get golden brown over medium low heat. Turn them with a spatula without damaging the chicken and brown the other side. They will be cooking later so you just want to get the nice golden brown color now.

2. Heat the chicken stock.

3. Remove the chicken from the pan, add the white wine and the cognac and deglaze the pan, scraping any pieces of meat stuck on the bottom. Let the alcohol evaporate completely, then add the mustard and dissolve in the sauce with a whisk.

4. Place the chicken in a baking pan in a 375F oven and let it cook through and crisp up the skin a little. Approximently 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, add the hot chicken stock to sauce pan. Season with salt and freshly ground white and black pepper and let simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Squeeze the garlics and sage in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to release more flavour, then discard them.

7. Sift the flour and dissolve it in 3 tablespoons of cream using a whisk. Add the remaining cream and whisk. Keep whisking so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom. Let the sauce reduce again to the amount you need, always stirring.

8. Remove chicken from oven and place on plate or platter. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken and serve immediately with some mashed potatoes.

By the way, you should really fry up some leeks to put on the top of the mashed potatoes. Adds a whole flavor and texture element that puts it over the top. Just toss the sliced leeks in a little flour, shake off excess and drop in some oil. Brown, drain on paper towel, and salt. So good.

So, I am working on it. You know… putting myself on the list of things that I need to take care of. I know in my heart and soul it is just as fast to stay home and make dinner, then to hop in the car and go out for fast food. My family and the planet deserve the attention that I pay to preparing meals at home. It saves money, it is healthier, and I produce a lot less waste and conserve energy by cooking fresh locally sourced food. So.. l am working on it and it does seem to be getting easier. You all are keeping me honest.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth


Grilled Lemon Chicken with Feta Dressing on Lemon Thyme bread
June 24, 2010, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Main Entree, Sandwich | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I have a tendency to cook less in the summer and just let the fresh summer ingredients speak for themselves. I like how refreshing and tangy this chicken is with the feta cheese dressing. Pizza dough is the base for the bread, but lemon and thyme are the star of this meal. I use the same marinade for the chicken and bread. Do not limit yourself to just chicken. I have used an assortment of vegetables, steak, or fish. I have also use whole wheat pizza dough.

Serves 4

5 Tablespoon of freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
2/3 cups of olive oil
2 gloves of garlic, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
handful of fresh thyme
4 chicken breasts, pounded down slightly or thinly sliced
1 pound pizza dough

1.Mix up marinade in a jar with a lid:lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, s&p, and shake well.

2.Place chicken in a shallow dish and cover with marinade, leaving 1/3 of the marinade in the jar to brush on the bread later. Then place thyme on the chicken and toss well.

3.Pizza dough is at room temperature and the grill/ grill pan is set on medium. Form bread rounds into your desired thickness and shape. Brush one side of marinade. Place marinade side down on grill.

4. When bread is done cooking on one side, brush the top with marinade and place thyme leaves on the bread. Press in the leaves into the bread. (I have used dough from my bread machine or store-bought.)

5.Flip bread over and cook until it reaches desired crispness. Finish all bread and set aside.

6.Grill marinated chicken until cooked until cooked through on both sides. Pull of heat.

7.Assemble sandwich as desired and top with Feta dressing (see recipe below)

Feta Dressing:
1 ounce feta cheese
2 T. buttermilk
3 T. greek yogurt (I usually use the 0%)
1 1/2 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t. fresh thyme leaves
s&p to taste
sesame oil, a few drops

1. Mix together and served chilled.

I make a variety of this with goat cheese or blue cheese. It is a good creamy dressing with a bit of tang. It is low in calorie, fat and carbs. It really is a go to dressing for a lot of things.

Kids and adults both like this meal. I actually crave the dressing against the tang of the lemon. Enjoy.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

Chicken pot pie. Need I say more?

Update: Let’s see… I have leftover meat. I have veggies that need to be used or go bad and I have puff pastry in the freezer. I hate to waste food. This is how my pot pies are born every time. No need for an exact recipe. This was my mid-week meal for my family.

This pot pie consisted of turkey, fava beans, mushrooms, leeks, lemon and dill. I always accompany my pies with a crisp tart salad. It is the perfect counter point to the richness of the pie. Twenty minutes prep and thirty minutes cooking time and I have a meal that pleases everyone.

A few minutes after serving everyone, Gabriel announced that he was ready for some more pot pie. I look at his plate and he had only eaten the crunchy pastry off the top. “Hey, you have to eat your meat and vegetables first.”, I said. Gabriel responded “How am I suppose to eat it without more pastry?”

Original Post: I usually bake an entire pie when I make chicken pot pie. I make my grandmothers pie crust and I make the meaty middle with rich cream. I try my hardest not to, but I consume most of the pie. So knowing myself so well, I decided that I would make individual pies and cut out the cream and not put it in a bottom crust like I would normally do. I feel thinner just deciding how I was going to make it.

1.Lightly coated 1 cup ramekins with oil. Put on baking sheet.
2.Heat up a medium size saute pan.
3.Chop up 1 large stalk of celery, 1 med. carrot, half an onion, couple gloves of garlic.
4.Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in pan, then place in chopped veggies. Saute until tender.
5. Add a heaping cup of cooked chopped chicken. (I had leftover from a roasted chicken a couple of nights before. Rotisserie chicken works well here also.) Stir.
6. Take a heaping tablespoon of flour and sprinkle over mixture. Stir in and cook for a few minutes.
7. Pour chicken broth over veggies and chicken until you see the broth come up about 1/2 way the saute pan. Stir occasionally. The sauce will start to thicken.
8. Put in a cup of peas. Fresh or frozen
9. Add chopped herbs. I had parsley and thyme this time. Be flexible about herbs. Do not let fresh herbs go bad in the fridge. Use them. Throw them in recipes, salads, or even sandwiches.
10. Place creamy mixture into each ramekin. With these amounts, I made 3 pot pies.
11. Cut out the right size piece of thawed out puff pastry to fit your dish and place on top. You might need to wet the edges of your dish so that the pastry adheres to it. Cut a vent hole. (Commercial puff pastry is vegan friendly FYI)
12. Place in a preheated oven at 350F for about twenty minutes. The inside is already cooked. You are done when pastry is cooked.

I served my pot pies with an arugula salad. My son ate the whole thing and claimed it was the best dinner he ever had. I know that this is not a low cal meal, but it is way better than it used to be. I didn’t eat the whole pie for once. Small victories count. This is definitely food of love.

My red pepper chicken with creamy polenta.
January 17, 2010, 5:52 pm
Filed under: Main Entree | Tags: , ,

Simple, easy, budget minded, delicious. What more can you ask for? I made this meal for four people for under $8.00. Sometimes, I am always a little shocked when I hear people do not cook. If you were not taught as a child, learn now. In cooking with my family, I spend less money, we eat healthier foods and by simply sitting around the table everyday together we connect. I just can not imagine sending my child out in the world without the basic skill that is essential to his life.

Boneless chicken thighs are laid out open and then stuffed with Italian chicken sausage that I bought at Trader Joe’s. (Make sure the sausage you buy is not precooked.) Cut the casing to take out the sausage easier, then place on the underside of the chicken and roll back up. I secure with toothpicks. I used two sausages for six thighs. Salt and pepper the outside of the chicken.

Place chicken in a skillet that has been heated over medium heat with some olive oil, top side down first. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F. After chicken gets a nice rich brown on it, turn and brown the other side. Remove the toothpicks now. Deglaze(aka pour into pan and loosen up the tasty bits on the bottom of the pan.) with some wine. I used a Pinot Grigio. Maybe a 1/4 of a bottle. Then I added approximently a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce and a tablespoon of tomato paste, chopped up red peppers from a jar*(About 1/3 cup), a clove of garlic (chopped), and some fresh thyme (chopped). Stir and then put skillet in the oven to finish cooking.

The thighs should take about ten minutes more in the oven. After pulling out, stir the pan sauce and taste. Adjust seasonings. Serve. While you have been cooking the chicken make the polenta.

In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Stir in cornmeal* to boiling water and turn down heat to medium low. The cornmeal will start to thicken and you need to stir occasionally. I drop in a couple dollops of butter and cream cheese and stir until it melts into the polenta. Romano cheese is grated in as well. Taste. Adjust seasoning.

This is the deal with polenta… it will absorb what you put in it. Instead of water, you can use part milk or stock. I have added lots of cheese or no cheese at all. I have added roasted corn kernels and/or herbs. You can make it vegan friendly or a dish that is a salute to the dairy industry. Do it the way you love it. This is what home cooking is about. You are starting to form your culinary point of view.

Put the leftover polenta in a pan and refrigerated. Later, I will slice the cold polenta and grilled it. I love sauted mushrooms on the top or tangy cheese melted all over it under the broiler.

Now for the salad… never has to be complicated. I just love to compliment a creamy main dish with a vinegary crisp green. Simple. Whatever greens I have in the fridge, I chop up, then toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Love it.

Dinner is served. Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

*Note:I usually like fresh red peppers, but there is a place for jarred peppers. I usually buy the small jars, because I can not use up the big ones fast enough. When they are sale, I always snap up a couple.
Polenta is the Italian name for cornmeal. Buy cornmeal. If it has the name polenta on it, it is overpriced cornmeal. I have seen it priced five times the price of cornmeal.

Fifteen minute dinner challenge. I dare you!
December 13, 2009, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Budget Meals, Main Entree | Tags: , , ,

We have all been there… hungry, tired, do not want to spend the money on take out. There are others looking at you saying, “What’s for dinner?” Yikes. You want it healthy. Double yikes. Solution… a few standards that you can pull out of the box anytime. That would be the recipe box.

I had chicken, spinach and a few potatoes.

Start timer:
1. Pierce skin of potatoes with fork and stick in microwave. 5 minutes for small, 8 for large.
2. Start heating up the skillet, then pull out chicken breast.
3. Season them with season salt and pepper, then dust with some all purpose flour.
4. Coat pan with some olive oil. Heat up oil a moment, then place chicken down. Approx. 3 mins a side.
5. Start heating up skillet number 2 over medium heat. Open your bag of spinach, or cut of ends and wash.
6. Put olive oil or broth in skillet 2.
7. Turn chicken, put spinach in skillet 2 and squeeze 1/2 lemon with salt and pepper. Put a lid on it and turn it down to low.
8. Pull potatoes out of the microwave, smash with butter, salt and pepper to taste.
9. Pull chicken out of skillet and squeeze the other half of lemon in the pan. Whisking the pan drippings should thicken up juice. May need to add a pad or two of butter. Taste to adjust seasonings.
10. Chicken breast on plate. Spinach stirred up and then placed on plate. Potatoes on plate, then place sauce on whatever you want.
11. Done. 12 minutes.

Now that is a great plate of food. My son and I enjoyed every morsel of it. Let me know how you did.