The Appreciation Dinner & Dessert

If there’s one thing I can say with absolute certainty it’s that I have the most amazing parents in the world (according to me, at least). My dad and mom had worked furiously the past 2 weeks to spruce up the heirloom nursery furniture, update a hand-me-down glider from my sis, and make curtains for our new baby. On top of all that, they brought it to our house and helped us set it all up. Needless to say, an appreciation dinner was in order (plus an AMAZING dessert).

Since I already had a menu in place beforehand, I tried to choose the tastiest meal from my remaining options that would feed all 4 of us and that ended up being Rachael Ray’s Hot Pepper Chicken Under A Brick.

I’ve made it before and it’s super tasty (and one of the few 30-minute meals that actually takes me 30 minutes), plus chicken is a pretty safe meal for my parents.

I also needed a dessert…a REALLY tasty dessert that wouldn’t be too complicated or labor intensive. First, I thought to make homemade chocolate pudding. Obviously, I’d had some kind of brain fart and forgotten that my dad doesn’t eat pudding…ever (he doesn’t eat yogurt or applesauce either, totally a consistency thing – just can’t get past the gag reflex). I’m glad I had run that dessert choice by my mom the day before, because she reminded me of my dad’s disdain for gelatinous things. I had to do a little research before I settled on the yummiest idea I’d had in months…peach cobbler!

I know, it’s fairly simple, but it’s literally been YEARS since I’ve had peach cobbler so to me this was a novel idea.

I wish I had taken some pictures because the meal was SUPER yummy, but I was a little preoccupied (forgive me ^_^).

Hot Pepper Chicken Under A Brick (Not Really…)

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs chicken breast (RR recommends to do this recipe with skin-on dark meat like thighs, but that’s not my favorite part of the chicken so I did it with breasts and it turns out just as yummy)
  • 1 Tsp Dijon mustard (I actually subbed spicy brown mustard instead. Same effect, but I didn’t have to go out and buy Dijon)
  • 1 1/2 Tsp olive oil
  • about 1 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste, this didn’t really make it spicy)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Pepperocini or banana pepper rings for garnish (it’s REALLY good with them, I promise)

Start a dry, large skillet heating on medium-high for the chicken. Pat the chicken dry in a few paper towels or a kitchen towel and season with salt and pepper on both sides. In a small bowl combine the mustard, red pepper flakes, and oil with a whisk until smooth. Slather each one of the chicken breasts on both sides with about 1 Tsp of the mixture, then set them into your hot pan (don’t overcrowd, leave them some room to breathe so that they get good and crispy). Then take a piece of foil and set it right on top of your chicken and take a slightly smaller skillet and lay that on top of the foil (like a pan-foil sandwich) then lay something heavy into the smaller skillet to weigh it down (I used a REALLY heavy ceramic bowl, but you can use whatever. Maybe a big can of coffee or flour?). Let the chicken go for about 5-6 minutes on the first side. Deconstruct and reconstruct your “brick” once the chicken’s ready to flip so that it gets crispy on both sides. When all your chicken is done, set it on a plate covered loosely with foil so that it stays hot and juicy.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad 

  • 1 cup quick couscous (it’s the kind you’ll see most often in stores. Just don’t do Israeli couscous, it takes a lot longer to cook.)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I subbed 1 bullion cube with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water)
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 Tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tsp chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set the couscous (dry, uncooked) in a medium-sized bowl and bring the vegetable broth to a boil. When the broth boils, pour it right over the couscous and set a plate (or something to cover) over the bowl so that the couscous steeps and absorbs all the broth. While that’s happening, seed and chop the cucumber and tomato (you could choose not to seed the tomato if you like. I just find that if I leave the seeds in it makes the salad watery.). By the time those are chopped the couscous will be ready! Uncover it and fluff with a fork, and add the veggies right in with the couscous. I chopped the scallions and herbs right over the bowl with a pair of kitchen scissors (makes life easier). Add the lemon, oil, salt and pepper and stir with a fork. Serve immediately with the hot chicken.

Georgia Peach Cobbler

  • 6 peaches, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (about 1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Batter:

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

This one, I didn’t come up with – it actually came from Drew at How to Cook Like Your Grandmother (Props, Drew, it was a HIT!)

Preheat the oven to 350, and while it’s preheating add the butter to the bottom of your baking dish (I used a large round casserole – choose something deep as the cobbler will rise a bit) so that the butter melts slowly as the oven comes up to temp (just don’t forget about it like I almost did!). In a large bowl, combine the peaches and 3/4 cup of sugar and stir to combine. In a separate, small bowl combine the batter ingredients: AP flour, 3/4 cup sugar, milk, baking powder, and salt. Once the butter’s melted in your baking dish, add the peaches right on top of the butter – don’t stir. Then add the batter over top of the peaches – again, don’t stir! Mine ended up baking for about 80 minutes. After it cooked for 40 minutes, I kept checking on it every 10 minutes until the top was deep brown. Cooking time really depends on your oven, but I’d shoot for at least an hour’s worth of cooking time. Allow it to cool slightly (the top will de-puff when you take it out, but that’s supposed to happen) and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream! NOM!

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