Thursday, October 11, 2012

Roasted Chicken and Brussels Sprouts with Pumpkin Polenta

Fall has officially arrived in Durham! We had a brief glimpse of her a few weeks ago and then it got hot and humid all over again. Now, don't get me wrong, I love hot weather. Love love love. I am definitely a summer, bathing-suit, short-wearing, water-playing kind of girl. But one of the main reasons I love the weather in NC is the change in seasons. By the end of the summer, I am ready for fall. The crisp air, the crunchy leaves and the delicious, comforting food. When I started craving all things pumpkin, I knew that I was ready for the new season. This dinner came about by trying to figure out what to do with the random items I'd purchased at the store and the desire to satisfy my fall, comfort food cravings. And it definitely did the trick. The flavors meld together to taste a lot like a Thanksgiving meal but without the hours of work.
I recommend getting a jar of Herbes de Provence for your spice rack. One little jar includes a rich, aromatic blend of herbs, including thyme, basil and lavender. A good sprinkling of the blend can lend a ton of flavor to a dish without needing to buy a lot of individual herbs and spices. I also recommend keeping some canned pumpkin on hand this time of year. Make sure it is plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling as that's a whole different animal. You can easily stir some canned pumpkin into risotto, quinoa, or polenta to make a simple side into something perfect for the season.

Roasted Chicken and Brussels Sprouts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 package boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 1 - 1.3 lbs
  • 1 bunch Brussels sprouts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large, oven proof dish (I use my dutch oven), heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat.
Season the top side of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
When the pan is very hot - the oil should shimmer and move easily around the pan - add the chicken, seasoned side down.
Let the chicken cook without moving them for about 8-10 minutes. This will give them that nice golden color and the meat will tear if you try to move them before they're ready.
Season the underside of the thighs and then remove them from the pan to standby.
While the chicken is browning, wash the Brussels sprouts and trim off the ends. I usually cut them in half unless they are very small or even into quarters if they're very large.
After removing the chicken, turn the heat down a bit and add the sprouts and garlic to the pan.
Season with a bit more salt and pepper and add the Herbes de Provence.
Saute for a couple of minutes and then add the chicken stock.
Stir to get all of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
Add the chicken back into the pan, brown side up.
Place the pan into the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
Serve over pumpkin polenta.

Pumpkin Polenta
  • 3 cups of liquid (milk, stock, water or a combination)
  • 1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
Bring the liquid to a low boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Be careful if you're using milk as it will quickly boil over and make a big mess. I usually remove the lid when it starts to simmer.
Turn the heat down to low.
Slowly pour in the polenta and stir to combine, breaking up any lumps. Season with a pinch of salt.
Once the polenta is combined, stir in the pumpkin. I use a metal whisk to break up any lumps and make a creamy polenta.
Continue stirring until the polenta thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from the heat, add butter and Parmesan cheese.
Stir to combine, and let sit, covered for a minute or so.

For a printable recipe click here

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mateo Tapas: Downtown Durham Eats

Jamon Mixto (large) including Serrano, Lomo, Chorizo, and a local Mangalista
I'm going to jump on the Durham foodie bandwagon and sing my praises for Mateo Tapas, the Spanish eatery in downtown owned by Matt Kelly of Vin Rouge. There has already been a lot of hype about this new restaurant in the few short months it's been open. I wanted to see what all the buzz was about and judge for myself. Gavin and I have already been there twice together and he's been a third time as well. Considering we are relatively new parents with a baby that goes to bed at 6pm, this in and of itself says a lot about our feelings toward this place. We have also been fortunate enough to travel to Spain and experience tapas in their native environment. And we still love this place. Is it exactly the same as what you'll get in Spain? Of course not. Chef Kelly puts his own Southern spin on a lot of dishes. But on the other hand, there are many authentic offerings, like the meat plate pictured above - Gavin's all time favorite. And if you aren't able to fly to Spain any time soon, I promise Mateo will be a great place to visit in the meantime.
Ensalada de Remolacha Asada: roasted beets, orange, avocado, watermelon, pine nuts, goat cheese
The best thing about tapas is that you get to try a lot of different things. And fortunately the menu is varied enough that you're sure to get something that everyone really likes. The salad above combines Spanish and local flavors together to make a tower of deliciousness. Beets and goat cheese are one of my all time favorite combinations and I'm more than happy to let crisp watermelon and creamy avocado join the party. As you can see, Gavin and I are on opposite ends of the food spectrum when it comes to favorites but we both enjoy meeting in the middle and trying each others' favs... I guess our foodie relationship bodes well for our own relationship. :) But I digress...back to the food.
Fried calamari with pimenton aioli
As you may (or may not) know, I have a gluten allergy or sensitivity. I am not deathly allergic, thank goodness, but it makes me feel icky when I eat it so I tend to avoid it in general. However, I do make exceptions every once in awhile. Something so good it just screams "eat me!" with no care for my gluten sensitive self. One such dish would be fried calamari. Now pretty much all fried dishes are off-limits for me (sad, I know) unless they are breaded with cornmeal but that's rare. In general I'm ok with this and can pass on the fried delights. But fried calamari is just too stinking good to pass up. I've had it all over the world and at various places in Durham and, thankfully, Mateo's version does not disappoint. There is nothing worse than sacrificing my gut for something that is less than stellar. These tender rings with crispy outsides were just delicious. And that beautiful orange sauce on the side is a creamy aoili flavored with pimenton (aka Spanish paprika). As you can probably tell, my dinner companions had already dove upon the delights before I was able to take a picture but don't let the sloppiness fool you: it was awesome.

Now these are only a few of the dishes that we ordered and that are available. I could go on and on about the other treats like white anchovies, pork ribs, and Moroccan spiced chicken. But I'll let you discover some of those on your own. If your mouth isn't watering yet, check out a few more offerings at Carpe Diem or check out the six page drink menu complete with tons of sherry, Spanish wines, and creative cocktails.