• Tales of culinary adventures past

    I’m not real big on fancy dishes that have long involved names and longer, more involved prep times, but when I ran across this recipe I sat up and took notice. I subscribe to a recipe ezine for worldwide recipes and now and then he sends out some really good stuff. Chicken Cordon Bleu sounds classy, but it was the “casserole” part in the title that got me. At the firehouse, anything I could throw into a casserole dish and not worry about was worth checking into.  If I was in the middle of preparing a meal and the alarm went off, there was no checking the stove or turning off the oven – the power was automatically cut before I was in my turnouts and on the rig.
    Souffles were right out for firehouse cooking.
    This recipe requires pounding chicken breasts with a little meat tenderizer hammer or with the edge of a saucer. Don’t do it so hard you break the saucer, and don’t try to do it without the plastic wrap or you’ll have pieces of chicken all over the walls.
    Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
    4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
    pounded thin between two sheets of plastic wrap
    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    4-6 thin slices Swiss cheese
    4-6 thin slices prosciutto
    1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
    2 Tbsp. butter
    1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
    1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar

    Season the flattened chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place 1 slice of cheese on top of each breast and top with a slice of prosciutto. Roll up, beginning with the narrow end, and secure with a toothpick. Place in a greased baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and sir over low heat until the ingredients are incorporated. Pour over the chicken and bake uncovered in a preheated 350 °oven, basting with the sauce several times, until the chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

    There was a guy on another shift who made flattened chicken breasts marinated in white wine, garlic and a little salt and pepper. He called it “Poor Man’s Abalone.”

    They have leeks right now in the produce bins and at the Farmer’s Market. If you’ve never tried them, be aware that the green part is often tough and probably not something you want to use. That’s why they usually trim them down pretty close to the white part. Another thing about leeks is that they are often sandy so you need to wash them well. This recipe tells you to trim off the green part, split the white part the long way and wash it well.
    I thought of this recipe because it uses Dijon mustard, and since you already have it out for the Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole. . .

    German Leek Salat
    8 leeks, trimmed of dark green leaves, split lengthwise, and thoroughly washed
    1/4 cup sour cream
    1/4 cup cider vinegar
    1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    1 tsp. prepared horseradish
    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

    Place the leeks in a large skillet or baking dish and add enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer covered until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the leeks on paper towels and arrange on a serving dish. Combine about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid with the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Pour the sauce over the leeks and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled. Serves 4 to 6.
    “Salat” (salad) is one German word I will never forget. We went to Bavaria and stayed in a little pension right on the Czech border. It was just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the borders, and there were a lot of Czechs streaming into Germany hoping for work. We had a Czech waiter who spoke almost no English and needless to say our Spanish didn’t do us much good there. We had set a goal of trying all the local sausages and cheese, and there on the menu was something called “Wurstsalat.” It was local, our waiter assured us. We’d like it, he said, beaming. A few minutes later he brought out what amounted to two pounds (at least!) apiece of julienned bologna tossed with sweet gherkin pickles, all mounded up in a bowl and served cold.
    YOU try to get that down while telling the waiter how much you’re enjoying it.
    That became the joke of the trip and we were sure to get a complete definition of anything we ordered for there on out, but it wasn’t over. When we got on our Lufthansa light to come home, guess what they served us for lunch?
    Now, here’s one last recipe I was reminded of at the Farmers Market – there’s a woman there selling figs. You could substitute other nuts for the peanuts, but whatever you do, don’t substitute the fresh figs. The contrast of tastes is wonderful.

    Fig and Peanut Salad
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
    2 green onions, green and white parts, finely chopped
    2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint leaves
    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    1 bunch spinach, trimmed
    1 head green leaf lettuce, torn
    12 ripe brown  figs, trimmed and sliced
    3/4 cup roasted peanuts (I used salted ones and then I don’t salt the salad)

    Whisk together the oil, vinegar, shallot, scallion, mint, salt, and pepper. Toss with the spinach and lettuce. Top with the sliced figs and peanuts.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on April 30, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, The Retired Firehouse Cook


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