Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Before there were leftovers....

I think I can be assured that the majority of us are on budgets these days. As a single gal, home owner and dog own budget is a little tight to say the least. Who knew those dang dogs woud be so expensive. It's a good thing he's so darn cute!

I live alone, but I buy the family packs of everything. Why pass up such a great deal? Isn't that what freezers are for?

I always cook myself something special on grocery day...or in this case the next day since I went shopping so late in the evening.

Above, Grilled chicken which I brined overnight (recipe below) served with caramelized onion strings, roasted garlic, fresh tomatoes, a chiffonade of baby spinach and basil over grilled polenta cakes and a honey balsamic glaze.

I can't tell you how much I laugh (on the inside of course) when I hear someone gushing about some fancy reduction or glaze or such. As if these things hold some magical sway and are completely out of reach of the average cook. Not so I tell you. Nothing could be further from the truth.

At a recent food show I saw a gentleman in what was probably a $150 chef coat. Fine pressed cotton twill, black piping, monkey fist buttons, custom tailoring, embroidery. It fit him like a glove and I'll admit, he did look quite impressive. His sale item? Ha! I nearly spit on him as I popped a pear slice in my mouth drizzled with his "make anything gourmet" sauce which was a "6 hour balsamic reduction". He was charging a ridiculous figure for a pathetically puny amount. I'm pretty sure I was mad at him for about an hour. Pulling the wool over these innocents! The nerve!

My friends, for those of you that don't already know, the only thing this guy did was dump a large quantity of balsamic vinegar into a pot and cook it until it was half the volume it began at. I made just such a concoction for the meal above. What did I do? I poured about a quarter cup of vinegar into a small sauce pan, added a tb of honey--just because my vinegar is particularly pungent and cooked it until it started to resemble a syrup. All told, maybe three minutes. Maybe.

The beauty of these sorts of reductions is that the possibilities are endless and like the guy in the chef coat said, they really do make any meal feel gourmet. Just don't pay that much for it! Instead splurge on the really nice balsamic and make your own!

Chicken Brine:
1/4 c salt, rice wine vinegar & honey (i used local buckwheat honey--a tad on the spicy side)
tsp each cayenne, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and mustard powder.
juice of a lemon and lime
whisk it all together, pour over chicken in a large bowl, add water until chicken is covered.
Allow to set in refrigerator overnight (24 hrs is best). Drain and grill 'em up!

If you've never brined poultry before, don't be alarmed at the almost cooked appearance of the chicken the next day. Acid "cooks" protein. It still needs to be properly cooked of course. Hope you enjoy!

Johnny says Woof!

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