Thyme for Leeks

Happy Memorial Day to our U.S. friends. Isn’t it glorious not to have to work today! Mike, the kids and I are certainly enjoying it – even despite our dismal weather. In fact, Mike has had the smoker going since the wee hours. If that smokey aroma can’t lift your spirits I don’t know what will!

So while Mike tends to the smoker, it’s back to French recipes. Today we’re going to share with you the recipe for roasted leeks which we prepared to go with our coq au vin. Prior to making this recipe we had only used leeks in preparing soups and risottos. We had never made a dish that featured the veggie front and center, and we were eager to taste the results (Well, at least Mike and I were eager – they are veggies after all.).

First we sliced the leeks lengthwise, rinsed them down and gave them a bath. They are dirty little buggers, so don’t skip this step. leek bath

After they were good and clean, we placed them cut-side down in two small baking dishes, then tucked some fresh thyme sprigs throughout the dish. leeks and thyme

Next we whisked together some olive oil, Sauvignon Blanc and water with a touch of Fleur de Sel (sea salt). We were fortunate to have some authentic French sea salt from Anneli who lives in France and cooks some amazing French dishes over at Delicieux. The salt was our surprise gift in last year’s Secret Santa hosted by Charles at Five Euro Food (who also lives in France and has some great French recipes on his blog). fleur de sil

After whisking the wine and oil we poured it over the leeks and tossed on some minced garlic for good measure. garlic leeks

We then covered the leeks with foil and roasted them in the oven for 45 minutes at 375F. In the meantime, Mike and Miss A sliced some French baguette for us which we brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven for about 10 minutes (with the leeks). French baguette

After the leeks finished roasting (and were tender to pierce with a fork), we tossed them in the broiler to brown for 2 to 3 minutes, watching them closely. Once done, we removed them from the oven and dusted them with Parmesan. Braised Leeks

To serve the roasted leeks we placed them on the slices of toasted baguette and drizzled a delightful dressing over the top. The dressing was a simple mixture of olive oil, Champagne vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

As many of you know, I’m rather picky when it comes to vegetables. So when I say that I really enjoyed these, that’s saying something for a veggie dish. I gave them a solid 3 spoons. Mike liked them too, but being a less picky veggie eater than myself, he said he would have preferred asparagus and only gave them two spoons. leeks with garlic and parmesan

The leeks were sweet and tender, and they were absolutely delightful on the toast with the dressing. The toast brought some texture and the dressing, combined with the seasonings from the leeks made for that salty sweet combo. My feelings aside, they still tasted like vegetables, so they were not a hit with the kids. Miss A ranked them at 1 spoon and Mr. N at 0 spoons. They did eat the toasts up though. roasted leeks

As we mentioned, we served our leeks with our coq au vin for a deliciously French dinner. French dinner

Since we often feature these dishes and meals in an appetizing little set-up, today I thought you might enjoy a more authentic view this time. Our actual table is a bit less fancy than the photos (but no less delicious – most of the time). family table

And speaking of views, we’re going to join in Miss C’s backyard photo challenge. It has been so much fun to see the different backyard views from around the world. So here’s our little suburban backyard: backyard living

As much as I detest the suburbs, I do love our backyard space (and our neighbors!). This little area under our magnolia tree becomes our living room in the summer. On weekdays I often bring my work outside; and on the weekends, we play outside, read outside, get together with the neighbors for impromptu BBQ’s, and definitely eat outside. It’s by far the best part of our house. summer living room

Incidentally, Miss A and I also had the opportunity to visit Miss C’s backyard, and what a backyard it is! We had such a wonderful day and Miss A (and I) made some memories that will last a lifetime. We’ll share more on our visit to Farmy in a few weeks. Until then, we’re going to spend a few more weeks in France (well at least cooking from France) since we learned it’s such an integral part of our history. Besides, who wouldn’t want to stay in France! Yum! Cheers and enjoy the week. (Miss A certainly enjoyed playing with Ton Ton!)Miss C's backyard

Print this recipe: Roasted Leeks

Vive Le France!

Hi again! We’re back with our new international cooking destination courtesy of Miss A. Usually when it’s her turn we pull the big Atlas book out and she flips around to find a page she likes – more often than not it involves the color pink. This time the big book was not consulted. She was sure of her pick – France. I asked her if that was really what she wanted, and didn’t she want to look at the big book…nope, France. peeling garlic

Talk about an intimidating choice. I mean French food. It’s among the most revered cuisines around the world, there are many, many phenomenal French cooks, but perhaps most intimidating of all, my family roots can be traced back to the Rhine River area of France and I have not once made a French dish. coatofarms

I didn’t really know about my French history until Mr. N was required to research our heritage for school. We started by consulting the extensive family tree that was fortunate to be in my Grandpa’s possession. If you trace the roots on our branch through many generations we end up at Daniel and Mary Fierre in 1685. After doing a little digging we discovered the following:

Maria Warenbauer [Marie de la Warenbau, Marie de la Warrembere, Mary Warrenbur] was born about 1650 possibly in France. She died 1716 in Pequea Valley, Lancaster (then Chester) County, Penn. Maria married Daniel Feree, a Descendent of Robert Ferree who in 1265 founded noble family at Forchamps known variously as LeFerre, Ferree, Ferrie, Fuchre, Fierre, Firre and Ferie. Daniel was a wealthy silk manufacturer who located at Landau, France, along Rhine River, where some and perhaps all of his six children were born. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by French King Louis XIV, the family fled to Strasbourg, Alsace. Later, they moved to Steinwiel, Bittingheim. Daniel was born c.1650 in France and died early 1708 in Bittingheim. After the death of her husband, Maria and Matthias Schliermacher led a group of 54 Huguenot and German Calvinists from the Palatinate, where they were in danger from the soldiers of French King Louis XIV, to Holland and then London. Reaching London in the summer of 1708, she went to see William Penn about buying land in Pennsylvania. Penn arranged for her to have a private audience with Queen Anne, who then recommended the members of the group be given naturalization status. Mme. Ferree’s group bought 4,000 acres from Penn in the Pequea Valley in Lancaster County. Ferree family joined party of Rev. Joshua Kocherthal and set sail 10-15-1708 on “The Globe,” arriving in New York 12-31-1708. They then went up Hudson River valley to Esopus (Kingston) and nearby New Paltz, site of a Huguenot settlement where some of the group had relatives, including Maria’s son-in-law, Isaac Lefevre, two of whose uncles, Simon and Andries Lefevre, had been among the founders of New Paltz, N.Y. They stayed there until the spring of 1712 while their Pennsylvania land was being surveyed. That done, they moved to what became Lancaster County.

We even discovered a reunion website and a cemetery. At this point I’m wondering why I’ve never cooked any French food! Better late than never I guess, so we bring you Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine). bacon

For this particular recipe, we adapted several versions of the dish we found online, all of which were based on Julia Child’s version. We started by crisping a bit of bacon which was then removed and set aside. Next we tossed in the chicken and pearl onions to brown on both sides. We also poured in a touch of Cognac. browning chicken

Once the chicken was browned, it was time to add the Burgundy, chicken stock, garlic and herbs. chicken in wine

Now if we had read Charles’ post before cooking our coq au vin, we would have tied our thyme, rosemary and bay leaves into a little bouquet (or even made a sachet) to make it easier to discard them after cooking. C’est la vie. seasonings

After the chicken cooks in the wine for a bit it is removed, along with the pearl onions and set aside. (This is also the point the herbs are discarded.) Then the mushrooms and bacon are added to the pot and brought to a high heat. After stirring in a bit of flour, the sauce is left to reduce by 3/4′s. mushrooms

Lastly a bit of butter is melted in the sauce and the chicken and onions are once again incorporated. final dish

The final dish was then served to our hungry crowd (the aromas were killing us!). Coq au Vin

Well, I have one word for you – délicieux. The chicken was tender, full of flavor and a total crowd pleaser. Even Mike, who has often said, “It’s good, but it’s just chicken,” gave this recipe the coveted 4 spoons! (So did I.) chicken burgundy

Mr. N and Miss A were both happy with the taste of the chicken and each ate two pieces. The mushrooms were a bit too much for them to get around though. While they have been eating mushrooms hidden in ravioli or other creative dishes, it’s hard to hide the mushrooms in coq au vin. Remarkably they both still came in with a 3 spoon vote. I’d say that’s some good chicken! coq au vin

I wonder if our French ancestors would be proud. We were for our first attempt at la cuisine. In fact I’m certain it won’t be our last French meal in this house! However, before we move on we’ll share the recipe for the side dish we enjoyed with our chicken (and of course the dessert!). French dinner

Until then, if you’d like to try your hand at a delicious French meal print the recipe: Coq au Vin

Red, White and BBQ

Don’t you just love a good rivalry? Growing up we had some intense baseball rivalries in the family. Dad is a Cubs fan. Period. My sister and I, well naturally we grew up as Cub fans. Grandma, on the other hand, is a Cardinals fan. It was understood in our house that the Cards were the arch-enemy. I still remember my dad’s t-shirt, “I root for two teams. The Cubs and whoever plays the Cardinals.” To this day, family visits are still full of all kinds of Cubs/Cards gifts and lots of competitive banter. Cub Fans

Then there was my mom’s side of the family. Die hard White Sox fans. Grandpa got a few Sox fans out of his kids and grandkids, but not in our house (mom often remained silent on the subject). And my Dad doesn’t even regard the Sox as legit. This of course led to several lively discussions throughout the years. Then I married Mike…another die hard Cubs fan. (Lucky for him!) Mike jests with Mr. N and Miss A that you can’t like the Sox because they’re crooks (referring to the 1919 “Black Sox Scandal”). Yes, Cubs fans’ memories go back that far (insert Cubs’ World Series reference here). Little Fan

And despite one little scare when Mr. N was 3 or 4 and insisting he was a Cardinals fan, we have so far successfully raised two Cub fans. In fact, Miss A’s nightly bedtime song – “Take me out to the ballgame,” complete with Harry Caray’s “Let’s get some runs!” Take Me Out to the Ballgame

As serious as we take our baseball team affiliations, let’s face it, the rivalry is just downright fun! That’s why it worked out perfectly that Miss A’s pick for our state-side cooking adventure this week is Alabama. You see Bama has a rivalry of its own as well…and as you probably guessed, this one has to do with food – White BBQ sauce vs. Red BBQ sauce. We had never heard of a white BBQ sauce before, but apparently it’s all the rage in northern Alabama. So for today’s post we’re pitting White vs. Red in this BBQ battle. Red sauce

Starting with Bama’s take on the red sauce, we selected a recipe that hails from the Chicken and Egg festival in Moulton, Alabama. This sauce uses ketchup, cider, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, mustard and some seasonings. The ingredients are combined and cooked over medium heat. The chicken is then tossed in the sauce to coat. red sauce chicken

Finally, the chicken is placed in a baking dish and wrapped completely in foil to bake for 15 minutes at 500F and an hour and 15 minutes at 350F. Baking chicken

The end result is a fall-off-the-bone kind of chicken. Alabama Chicken Bake

Seriously – this stuff was amazingly tender and juicy. We know we’ll be baking chicken this way again. However, the flavors were a bit disappointing. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I think we were hoping for something with a bit more tang. Mike would prefer tang with a kick, while I would prefer a tang with a sweet and spicy finish. Alabama chicken BBQ

Overall the ratings weren’t bad: Mike – 2 spoons, Kristy – 2-1/2 spoons, Mr. N – 3-1/2 spoons and Miss A – “2 or 90 spoons.” Mr. N was the biggest fan. Bama Red BBQ

As for the Alabama White BBQ Chicken, we used a recipe from The Neelys on The Food Network. We started by mixing together the sauce – a combination of mayo, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and seasonings. We reserved some in the fridge for dipping and used the rest to baste our chicken. basting chicken

The recipe couldn’t be simpler. Mix, baste, grill, eat. The finished product was a beautifully grilled and delicious BBQ chicken. I realize this is high praise which can perhaps be attributed to the fact that it was our first outdoor grilled meal since last summer. Still, it was very tasty chicken. Grilled chicken with White sauce

I was a bit nervous about the sauce for two reasons. One, I’m not being a big mayo fan. And two, it was incredibly watery. It had the consistency of a light salad dressing vs. a thick barbecue sauce, but unlike last time, my expectations were surpassed. It was tangy, sour and tasted fabulous on the grilled chicken. Alabama White Chicken

Ultimately the white BBQ won out over the red with our final votes of: Mike – 3 spoons (“Not 4 spoons because it’s still just chicken.”), Kristy – 4 spoons, Mr. N – 4 spoons and Miss A – 3 spoons. I do have to put a disclaimer on Mr. N’s 4 spoons though. You see we made these dishes on two different weekends and the voting was tallied at the time of the meal. However, even though Mr. N gave the white chicken 4 spoons, he did not like the dipping sauce and insists that he’d prefer the red version to the white even though his ratings don’t reflect as much. White BBQ

Now while Mike, Miss A and I will take the white over the red any day of the week, I am anxious to try that baking method out on my own BBQ sauce sometime because the chicken itself was truly memorable…unlike the White Sox. ;)

Alabama Red Sauce recipe: Alabama Red BBQ Chicken

Side dish courtesy of: Rufus’s Sweet Potato Fries and Oven Baked Fries

Alabama White Sauce recipe: White BBQ Chicken

Side dish courtesy of: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (I shamelessly admit that it’s a guilty pleasure!)

Land of Smiles

Spring has arrived! Well, at least the dandelions have.dandelions

I know they are weeds and not necessarily desirable in the front lawns of suburbia, but how can you not smile looking at a sea of beautiful yellow and green? We came upon this vacant lot near the theater where Mr. N performed his five shows this past weekend and it just made me smile. Speaking of smiles, today is our last recipe inspired by the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand. This recipe came from a good friend of mine and isn’t an authentic Thai dish, but definitely Thai-inspired. The kids and I were up north visiting my good friend and her kids (leaving Mike to his NCAA tournies) and she prepared this dish for our arrival. We hadn’t yet officially started our cooking adventures in Thailand, but I knew this would have to make it to the blog. So today we bring you Slow Cooker Spicy Peanut Thai Chicken. The ease of this dish certainly makes me smile! seasonings

The recipe is simple, mix together peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, freshly minced ginger, sweet chili sauce and sambal oelek (ground chili paste). sweet and spicy

Then simply add the chicken to the slow cooker (we used boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces) and pour the sauce over the chicken. Next add a bit of fresh cilantro and two ingredients which weren’t part of the original recipe, but that I wanted to toss in – bamboo shoots and green onions. Once everything is mixed together, cover and set your temperature. We cooked ours on low for eight hours, but you could cook this on high for four hours as well. Then go about your day… spicy chicken crockpot

While not really an authentic Thai dish, this inspired version has helped feed us and keep us sane during these busy weeks. And Miss A and I have enjoyed whipping up a very easy (again non-traditional) naan to go with the chicken. While you could also use rice, naan is a fabulous complement to the meal. We typically mix the dough in the morning, let it rest in the fridge for the day. Then we roll it out and cook it up in 15 minutes before dinner. Can you see why the Land of Smiles has us smiling?! naan

But the smiles don’t end there. This meal gets high marks from all of us! When the naan was complete and the chicken cooked through, we garnished the dish with fresh cilantro and toasted peanuts. Spicy Thai Chicken

Miss A is not a fan of the spicy chicken, but I think she’ll come around. She’s just beginning to explore spicy dishes. The naan, however, that gets 5 spoons from her (I think she may be getting closer to understanding our rating system, but I will miss her votes of 1,092.) slow cooker Thai chicken

Mike, Mr. N and I all really like this dish. It’s one we’ll make again and again. Partly for its simplicity and partly for its flavors. It’s a great weeknight flavor punch – spicy, sweet and those little crunchy bites of peanuts – yum! This easily earns 3 spoons from each of us. Thank you for the recipe Missy! Slow Cooker Spicy Peanut Chicken

Now before we sign-off for today and end our Thailand cooking adventures, Mr. N wanted to share one last fact about the Land of Smiles with you all. Did you know that Bangkok’s Thai name is the longest place name in the world? The Thai’s call Bangkok, Krung Thep, but its official name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Whew!!! There is a bit of controversy surrounding the validity of the statement as North Wales and New Zealand also lay claim to the title, but you can read more on that here. While I can’t claim to know the true title holder, I do know this is a LONG name! And I know there is one thing I wish could last longer…childhood. Ensemble

Mr. N was in his first “real” play this past weekend. This wasn’t a camp play or school play, but one at a community theater for which he auditioned and rehearsed for months. In fact, he even got to miss two days of school to perform for other schools’ field trips. To say he was proud and excited is an understatement. Uncle

He was an ensemble character in “Charlotte’s Web” in a cast of about 25 other kids aged 1st grade through high school. He made friends, had a few crushes (shhh!) and even had his first kiss. Well, sort of – he was kissed by a younger girl and quite mortified by it! In fact, he told Mike that when he becomes a famous actor someday he’s going to have to get married really fast because he can just imagine how many girls chase famous actors trying to kiss them. So his solution – he’ll need to get married quickly. Oh boy…I think I’m getting some gray hair now. take a bow

Truthfully as a parent, watching him become part of a group – part of something outside of home, outside of school and larger than himself was a proud moment for Mike and I. Sometimes we have a hard time believing he’s only almost 9 when we see him reassuring other cast mates that there’s nothing to be nervous about – that this is exciting, and congratulating and hugging his other cast mates at the end of the production. Then other times we think, my goodness how is he almost 9?! Watching him perform his lines, projecting his voice, getting laughter and applause, I couldn’t help but think, “That’s the little 3 pound baby I held in my arms not that long ago.” Sigh. first play

I think it might be time for a life saver (a tasty dessert from Geni who knows all too well how fast children grow up!). Thank goodness for cameras, so we can preserve these little, and oh so brief, moments of childhood. childhood

Ehem. Now if you’ll excuse me…no, I’m not crying. It’s the heat from this spicy chicken. Okay, so I’m not fooling anyone, but I swear I’m smiling at the same time and the chicken really is quite good. Feel free to decrease the heat if you like. Print this recipe: Spicy Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

Thai Slow Cooker