Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Oven-Baked Chicken Romano

As the name implies, Romano cheese has a starring role in this flavorful and healthier version of Chicken Romano.   Instead of being dredged in batter and fried or served with a fat-laden (although delicious) cream sauce, this oven-baked version offers plenty of flavor without the extra calories.

For over two thousand years, this hard, Italian cheese has been made in Rome, its namesake city, by a process known as rummaging the curd.  The curds of the cheese are drained well, then pierced before being salted and brined.  There are several types of Romano cheese, each made with a different milk and therefore producing slightly different flavors. 

The most authentic variety is Pecorino Romano and boasts a sharp, tangy and salty flavor.  To carry the title of Pecorino Romano, the cheese must be made under stringent Italian government guidelines.  To be precise, the cheese must be round, meet minimum weight requirements, be made from the milk of specific sheep, in a specific area of Italy and only manufactured between the months of October and July.  When Romano cheese is made from goat's milk it is called Caprino Romano and has a distinctly sharp flavor.  When it's made from cow's milk it has a milder flavor, which suits most American palates, and is called Vaccino Romano. 
All three varieties must be aged for a minimum of five months and are especially good for grating over dishes such as pasta, salads, breads and soups.
 Oven-Baked Chicken Romano

1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese or 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (dry packed, or very well drained if packed in oil)
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup skim milk
8 chicken breast tenderloins or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 425.  In a shallow dish, or pie plate, combine bread crumbs, cheese, tomatoes, parsley, basil and garlic powder.  Pour milk into a second shallow dish.  Dip chicken pieces into milk, and then roll in the crumb mixture.  Place coated pieces in an ungreased 13 x 9 baking dish.  Bake in the 425 oven for about 15-20 min or until poultry is tender and no longer pink.  Serve with your favorite steamed vegetable or a small side of pasta.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lemon-Filled Ginger Scones

I want to share a new scone technique that I recently tried.  Most scones I've made are dropped by spoonfuls into a small mound, like a biscuit, or they're patted into one (or two) large, semi-flat rounds that are then cut into triangles before baking.  The triangular scones were my preferred method until I tried these delicious Lemon-Filled Ginger Scones found in the Breast Wishes cookbook; the third in a series of cookbooks published to raise money for breast cancer patients.  While making about six different scone recipes in a matter of days, I realized that I'm partial to the scones made with buttermilk.

Contrary to what its name implies, there is no butter (or fat) in buttermilk.  It's ideal in baking because it acts very much like whole milk in pancakes, muffins and scones.  The flavor it lends to your baked goods is richer and it provides a softer, fuller-bodied texture.  I recently made homemade butter.  A crazy idea, I know, but it was too intriguing not to try it.  I've always envisioned old fashioned butter churns, which were as tall as a third grader, with a wearied farmer's wife methodically pushing the paddle around until the butter is made.  I gave absolutely no thought to what was IN the churn, however, until now.

I put one cup of fresh, heavy cream and about 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt into a sterilized pint size canning jar.  The rest is easy... or so I thought.  Simply cap off the jar and shake it until the cream turns to butter.  Shaking the liquid did start out easy but was killing me at about four minutes.  At that time it had magically thickened up to where I couldn't hear it moving in the jar anymore.  I peeked under the lid and literally saw whipped cream!  It was so thick now and my arms were really getting tired so I tried passing it off on my ultra-lazy teen, who was still in bed at half past noon.  But he claimed he was too tired to shake for even a minute.  So I continued shaking it myself and within just another 30 seconds it sounded like liquid again!  Sure I'd ruined it when I had stopped shaking to pass it off, I looked through the side of the jar and was shocked to see a big lump of fluffy butter just floating in buttermilk.  What an amazingly simple process!  I separated the buttermilk from the butter.  The butter was outstanding and it worked just like butter from the store.  It hardened in the fridge and softened when left out. 

I've often substituted a combination of milk and vinegar for buttermilk in a recipe, but now I'm thrilled to have an even more authentic substitution.  When I decided to make homemade butter it never occurred to me that the bonus would be fresh buttermilk.  But I wasted no time testing it out in my new favorite scone recipe!

Lemon-Filled Ginger Scones

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/3 cup lemon curd
Sugar, to sprinkle before baking

Mix flour, sugar and baking powder.  Cut in butter with pastry blender or two butter knives, and then stir in the buttermilk and ginger.  Form into a ball and divide in two, so that one half is just slightly larger than the other.  Line a pie plate (or cookie sheet) with greased foil.  Place the larger half of the dough on foil and pat into an 8 inch circle.  Spread with lemon curd, and then pat out the other half of the dough into a 7 inch circle.  Lay it over the lemon curd and fold up the edges of the bottom dough, sealing the seam as best you can.  Sprinkle a bit of sugar (I like a lot) over the top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, cool slightly, cut into pizza slices and serve.  Serves 8
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TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License