Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks

A while back I was lured in by a glossy picture of Parmesan and Herb Potato Stacks in an retailers Instagram post. The recipe seemed straight-forward, the image looked inticing and I’m always seeking a new way to present potatoes at Saturday night dinner.

While the result was good I thought of several ways to improve the recipe. Here’s the result with my update ingredient list and rewritten in my own words. Enjoy.

Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks
Servings: 8-12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, very thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch)
  • 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Place the sliced potatoes win a colander set over a bowl and set aside while you melt the butter. Transfer the butter to a large bowl and allow the butter to cool for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Add the Romano cheese, garlic, thyme and cream to the cooled butter and whisk together until combined.. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potato slices and gently toss to coat evenly.
  4. Divide the potato slices among the prepared muffin cups, stacking them in layers.
  5. If using them, arrange a sage leaf on top of each stack.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the potato stacks. Bake for another 10 minutes. The potatoes should be tender with crispy edges and the Parmesan should be fully melted. If not cook for another minute or two.
  7. Let cool slightly, then carefully remove the stacks from the pan and serve warm.

Notes:
Don’t be tempted by the cheese in a plastic jar which is found in the pasta aisle of your local megamart. You should find a wedge of Romano, and another of Parmesan, in the “fancy” cheese case near the deli counter. Yes, you’ll pay more than you will for that plastic jar however the flavor will far exceed the price difference.

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Chicken and Stuffing Bake

I appear to be on a streak of nostalgia led cooking. I remember having a dish like this on a retreat in my late teens. Simple food, prepared well, with a lot of flavor.

Every recipe I found online for “chicken and stuffing bake” put the chicken on the bottom, added condensed soup on top of the chicken and then piled the store bought stuffing on top of that. That did not match my memory or desire so I made it up as I went. Not bad for a first pass though I missed a couple of things which I’ve corrected in the recipe.

This recipe has several components so I’ve written each component in its own section with a final set of directions at the end of combining everything together.

Chicken and Stuffing Bake
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Stuffing Ingredients:

  • 12-16 cups bread cubes (I used a mix of sourdough and multi-grain bread)
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. fresh sage
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp. rosemary powder
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (chicken broth is OK too)
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Stuffing Directions

  • Preheat oven to 250°F. Distribute bread cubes in a single layer across 2 rimmed baking pans. Bake for 20 minutes, swapping the position of the pans halfway through.
  • While the bread cubes dry out heat the olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrots, celery and onions, sprinkle with salt and stir to coat with oil. Cook for ~10 minutes until carrots begin to soften and onions are translucent.
  • Add the butter, herbs, and broth. Bring to a simmer, stir so the butter is spread throughout the vegetables and taste. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.
  • When the bread cubes are done transfer them to the bottom of a large casserole dish. Add the veggie mixture and toss combine. Spread evenly across the bottom of the dish and set aside.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup milk (anything but skim)
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Sauce Directions

  • Put the mushrooms in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes on high. Drain liquid from the cooked mushrooms and set aside. Careful, that bowl will be hot.
  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the shallots. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for 5 minutes until the shallots have softened and are beginning to brown.
  • Add the butter to the pan. When it is melted add the mushrooms and cook for another 5-10 minutes until they are browned. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms, stir until all the flour is moistened. Cook for about 1 minute to drive off the raw flour taste.
  • Add the broth to the pan and stir until combined. Add the milk and combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. The sauce will be slightly thickened. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.

Final Ingredients:

  • 8 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Final Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts of excess fat and cut in half across the middle of the breast.
  3. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. Distribute the chicken pieces over the stuffing.
  4. Give the sauce a stir to reincorporate any “skin” that has formed on top. Pour the sauce over the chicken pieces. Use a spatula to smear sauce over to top of the pieces.
  5. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking.
  6. Remove the foil and continue cooking for another 10 minutes to lightly brown the top of the chicken. Check the chicken temperature; they should reach 160°F when fully cooked.
  7. If possible, allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve directly from the baking dish and enjoy.

Notes:
My estimates for total time here assume you don’t mind having multiple pans on the stove at one time. If you’d rather do everything in a serial fashion (make the stuffing, then make the sauce, then assemble and bake) add an extra 30 minutes.

Sage Brown Butter for Pasta

Summer is here, the kitchen is hot and we haven’t been doing a lot of cooking of late. Here’s a little something for a quick weeknight supper. It is quick and flavorful. I like to use this with almost any filled pasta.

Sage Brown Butter for Pasta
Servings: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: less time than it takes to cook your pasta

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 7-10 fresh sage leaves, rinsed and minced

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes. As butter heats the butter will start to sputter and pop as the milk solids give up the little bit of water they possess. Remove the pan from the heat when the sputtering stops.
  2. Add the minced sage to the pan and swirl to distribute.
  3. Toss with pasta and serve.

Notes:
I prefer a stainless steel skillet for browning butter over a non-stick one. The stainless one makes it easier to observe the darkening of the melted butter.

The time from browned butter to “burnt” butter is seconds. Sound is your best indicator here; remove the pan from the heat as soon as the last pop is uttered by the browning butter. Just as you stop the microwave as soon as the popping kernels slow down it is better to remove the pan a little early than risk “burnt” butter.

Grilled Chicken and Sausage

This chicken & sausage came together using a couple of recipes. I used parts Nigella Lawson’s One-Pan Sage-and-Onion Chicken and Sausage and combined it with some of the technique in the Grilled Lemon Chicken with Rosemary recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.

The result was nicely colored meat with a fairly moist interior.

Grilled Chicken and Sausage
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 75 minutes
Total time: 115 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3 quarts water
  • 12 chicken drumsticks, skin removed, bone-in
  • 12 sweet Italian sausage links
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 12 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • salt & black pepper for seasoning

Directions:

  1. Make a brine by combining the sugar and salt in a large bowl or 2-quart cup glass measuring cup. Heat 2 quarts water to a boil and then pour over sugar/salt. Stir until the sugar/salt is dissolved. Add remaining cold water (or ice) to reduce the temp of the brine. The temperature needs to get down to at least room temp before moving on. Colder is better, say 40-50°F.
  2. Cut 1/2″ slits, about 1/2″ apart, on the both sides of the drumsticks. Transfer to a large bin or zip-top bag. Add the cooled brine and seal. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet or small pan over medium heat. Add the sage leaves one at a time and cook until crisp, about 1 minutes. Transfer the leaves to a double-layer of paper towels to remove some of the excess oil. Allow olive oil to cool.
  4. Zest and juice the lemons while the chicken brines. Crumble about sage into small pieces. Combine zest, lemon juice, 1/2 the crumbled sage, Worcestershire and Dijon in a small bowl. When oil cools whisk it into the mixture to create an emulsion. Add salt and pepper to taste. This will be a dressing and basting liquid for the chicken & sausages.
  5. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Transfer to a large dish, add the sausage links and add about 1/3 of the lemon/oil dressing. Rub the dressing onto the chicken and sausages.
  6. Heat gas grill on high for 15 minutes. Clean the grill grates, leave half of the burners at high and turn the rest to low. Lubricate with vegetable oil.
  7. Place the drumsticks on the hottest part of the grill and arrange the sausages around the drumsticks. Close the grill and cook for 8-10 minutes. Flip the drumsticks and sausages over; brush with with basting liquid. Cover and continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes.
  8. Check the temperature of the chicken and sausages. If it is in the 175°F range then remove it from the grill to a clean dish. If it hasn’t hit 175°F yet turn it over again, baste it once more and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Repeat until all the pieces are cooked through.
  9. Brush cooked meat with any remaining basting liquid and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
  10. Transfer meat to a serving disk, sprinkle with remaining sage leaves. Serve.

Notes:
If you have the time and forethought, make the brine the day before, let it cool to room temp and stash it in the fridge overnight.

I served this with some grilled onion segments. Cut peeled onions (top to root) into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. Place the onions in a microwave safe bowl, toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 5 minutes to soften the onions. When you flip the chicken the first time place the onion quarters on the grill. Flip them after 4 minutes. It takes a bit of dexterity however if you leave a bit of root in place they should stay together.