CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Chicken And Rice

Chicken and rice is a popular combination. In fact, some people would say it’s unbeatable.

This simple pairing has been around for ages. After all, rice is a staple in many countries around the world, and chicken is probably more widely available than any other meat. The two go together like spaghetti and meatballs, or peanut butter and jelly.

Recently, we had chicken and rice, using a recipe that originally called for pheasant. It was so tasty that I duplicated the meal only a week or so after the first time we had it.

One of the things that we particularly liked was the sauce, a rich combination of butter, olive oil, wine and broth, along with a dab of sugar. And I should mention the meat was very tender, probably because it was browned first before being place in the oven with the sautéed mushrooms, onions, garlic and black olives.

A nice salad and some home-grown buttercup squash rounded out our meal, which complemented the chicken and rice nicely.

Chicken and Rice
1 3- to 4-pound chicken, meat removed from bone and cut into pieces
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon seasoning salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 cup red cooking wine
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
½ cup black olives, sliced
1 can chicken stock or broth
In a large heavy skillet, preheat the shortening and butter on medium-high heat. In a bowl, add the flour with the garlic powder and onion powder, seasoning salt and pepper. Roll the pheasant pieces into the seasoned flour and place slowly in the hot pan. Fry until light golden brown.
Lightly spray a slow cooker crock with vegetable oil and set the heat to low, and add the browned pheasant pieces. In the heavy skillet that the pheasant was browned in, add the garlic, mushrooms, black olives, wine, onions, sugar, and broth. Heat until it starts to bubble and cook for a few minutes. Pour this sauce over the pheasant in the slow cooker.
Cook for 6 to 8 hours. If you wish, you may bake this in the oven on 325 degrees for 1½ hours.
Serve over cooked rice.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Pan-Seared Red Snapper

Many of the healthiest diets that are being touted these days include fish. And there is good reason. Several kinds of fish and seafood contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to human health.

But why are they essential?

According to the Harvard School of Public Health and the Mayo Clinic, among others, omega-3 fats are special because they have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema and rheumatoid arthritis and may play protective roles in cancer and other conditions.

To that end, the American Heart Association and other agencies recommend eating a variety of fish at least twice a week, and red snapper is an excellent choice for a healthy diet. While it is not as high in omega-3 fatty acids as others such as salmon, it is a good source.

Here’s a recipe we tried recently that I like for a couple of reasons: It takes little time to prepare and is awful tasty.

And that’s on top of being good for you!

Pan-Seared Red Snapper
2 4-ounce red snapper fillets red snapper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Rinse snapper under cold water, and pat dry. In a shallow bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, rice vinegar, mustard, honey, green onions, and ginger.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Dip snapper fillets in marinade to coat both sides. Place in skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Pour remaining marinade into skillet. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with vegetables.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Chicken Marsala

Mushrooms are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. For those who dislike mushrooms, it’s usually texture that puts people off more than the taste, while it’s those same qualities that attracts those on the other side of the aisle.

One of the reasons I like mushrooms so much is that they often absorb the flavor of the food or sauce in which they are cooked. And that’s precisely the reason I wanted to give chicken marsala a try, mushrooms being one of the key ingredients.

I had never made the Italian favorite before this past weekend and with a package of mushrooms in the refrigerator that needed to be used, there wasn’t a better time.

The following recipe for chicken marsala is pretty straightforward — and everything I wanted.

Chicken marsala isn’t for those who want a quick meal in a short time. It requires about 20 minutes of preparation and 20 minutes of cooking, but it is time well-spent and an entree that any mushroom aficionado would love.

Chicken Marsala
4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds)
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced, or bacon bits
8 ounces crimini or porcini mushrooms, stemmed and halved
½ cup sweet Marsala wine
½ cup chicken stock
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Put the chicken breasts side by side on a cutting board and lay a piece of plastic wrap over them; pound with a flat meat mallet, until they are about ¼-inch thick. Put some flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly.
Heat the oil over medium-high flame in a large skillet. When the oil is nice and hot, dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Slip the cutlets into the pan and fry for 5 minutes on each side until golden, turning once — do this in batches if the pieces don’t fit comfortably in the pan. Remove the chicken to a large platter in a single layer to keep warm.
Lower the heat to medium and add the prosciutto to the drippings in the pan, saute for 1 minute to render out some of the fat. Now, add the mushrooms and saute until they are nicely browned and their moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Pour the Marsala in the pan and boil down for a few seconds to cook out the alcohol. Add the chicken stock and simmer for a minute to reduce the sauce slightly. Stir in the butter and return the chicken to the pan; simmer gently for 1 minute to heat the chicken through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Czechoslovakian Cabbage Soup

Cold weather and comfort food go together like bacon and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs.

That’s why it wasn’t surprising to me to see a billboard ad this morning touting all the soup you can eat from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays at a local restaurant. After all, what’s more comforting when the temperatures are below zero than a bowl of hot soup?

The following recipe, for Czechoslovakian Cabbage Soup, is my standby when winter temperatures dip into negative territory. It’s a hearty soup that contains cabbage (of course),  sauerkraut, tomatoes and carrots, among other ingredients.

I once brought the soup along on an ice-fishing trip to Lake of the Woods in northwestern Minnesota on a day when the temperatures were well below zero — somewhere between minus 10 and minus 20.

I can’t think of anything else that would have been more comforting.

Czechoslovakian Cabbage Soup
1 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 quart sauerkraut
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
6 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
2- to 3-pound chuck or buffalo roast or stew meat
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
4 quarts water
Cook meat in water in soup pot until medium. Remove and cool. Put the rest of ingredients in water and bring to boil. Chop the meat into bite-size pieces and add to soup. Cook for 2 hours and serve.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Susie’s Jambalaya

There are a lot of jambalaya recipes floating around the internet. Just how many of them are authentic is anybody’s guess. The way I figure it, for a jambalaya recipe to be the real deal, it must be from someone with ties to Louisiana.

Sue Ellyn Scaletta
Sue Ellyn Scaletta

The one I’m going to share with you today is just that. It comes from an old friend and colleague, the late Sue Ellyn Scaletta. Susie was awful proud of her jambalaya, which she often shared with her co-workers at the Grand Forks Herald. Along with her red beans, it was a testament to her Louisiana roots.

I had Susie’s recipe at one time but over the years seemed to have misplaced it. It wasn’t until a recent get-together with some former Herald newsroom employees at the home of Naomi Dunavan that I was reacquainted with the Cajun classic.

When Susie was fondly recalled, Naomi and another co-worker, Ann Bailey, said they had the aforementioned jambalaya recipe. I asked Naomi if she could make me a copy of the recipe, and she reciprocated.

Almost immediately, I made up my mind that I was going to make some jambalaya for supper. So, on my way home, I stopped by our local supermarket and purchased some shrimp and bell peppers. I had the rest of the ingredients, including a pound of andouille sausage, on hand.

The result exceeded my expectations and although the jambalaya may not have been quite as good as Susie’s, it surely was better than anything I could have created from a Web recipe.

And it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that Susie would have approved.

Susie’s Jambalaya
1 pound large shrimp
2 16-ounce cans tomatoes
2 bell peppers (1 red)
2 to 3 stalks celery
20 ounces chicken broth
½ cup water
1 pound hot sausage
1½ cups uncooked rice
2 large onions
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
Chop vegetables, setting aside half of the onions and peppers. Saute other vegetables in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot until tender. Add chicken broth, water, rice and 1 can tomatoes after chopping them in a blender. Add seasoning salt, garlic and at least 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, then put lid tightly on pot, turn down heat and steam for 20 to 30 minutes or until rice is done and liquid has cooked away.
Boil water seasoned with prepackaged shrimp boil seasoning. Only leave shrimp in the water until they turn pink. Drain and set aside.
Brown sausage that has been cut into small pieces in a frying pan. Set aside.
In another pot, saute the set-aside onions and peppers in olive oil. Add the second can of tomatoes that also have been chopped in blender. Season with cayenne pepper, seasoning salt and about 1 teaspoon sugar.
Add the cooked shrimp and sausage to the cooked vegetables and cook slowly for about 5 minutes then mix thoroughly with vegetable/rice mixture.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi isn’t an entree most people would consider deer hunting camp fare. But they probably don’t know the Menard boys from Crookston, Minn., either.

This past month, I made my fifth trip to Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge and to Tamarac Resort on Round Lake to join my cousins, Kim, Joe and Tom Menard — and Joe’s son, Matt — for the 2017 Minnesota deer hunting opener.

One of the meals we traditionally have during our time together is shrimp scampi, which Joe prepares with some of the garlic butter Kim has brought to camp. Along with some sautéed venison tenderloins and backstraps, it’s a meal made in heaven, our own version of surf ‘n’ turf.

Our neighborhood supermarket recently had shrimp on sale, so I decided to give scampi a try, and the result was nothing short of delicious.

Eat your hearts out, Red Lobster fans.

Shrimp Scampi
1 pound large (16 to 20 count) raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 garlic cloves, slivered, or 1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (less or more to taste)
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat a saute pan on high heat then reduce to medium high heat. Swirl the butter and olive oil into the pan. After the butter melts it will foam a bit then subside. If using unsalted butter, sprinkle a little salt in the pan. Stir in the slivered garlic and red pepper flakes.

Saute the garlic for just a minute, until it begins to brown at the edges, then add the shrimp.
Add the wine and stir to coat the shrimp with the sauce of butter, oil and wine.
Move the shrimp so they are in an even layer in the pan. Increase the heat to high and boil the wine for 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn shrimp over to cook on the other side: Stir the shrimp and arrange them so that you turn them over to cook on the other side. Continue to cook on high heat for another minute.
Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with parsley, lemon juice and black pepper, and toss to combine.
Serve as is or with crusty bread, over pasta or over rice.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Chicken Stew

A couple of weeks ago, I was wondering what to do with some leftover chicken, and with the temps in the teens, throwing together a stew came to mind. After all, stew has been known as a comfort food a long time.

The following recipe is the result. I didn’t have to venture out to buy any of the ingredients, either, since we still have carrots and onions from our garden as well as a nice supply of potatoes and frozen peas. Combined with the chicken, gravy and broth — which I made with the bird’s carcass — everything was in place for the stew.

Now I just wish we had some it for today, with 5 to 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground and temperatures in the single digits.

Chicken Stew
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into small bites
1 cup chicken gravy
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cups carrots, sliced
2 cups frozen peas
2 potatoes, cubed
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Serve with crusty bread.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Sauerkraut, Sausage and Potatoes

For most people, it’s hard to draw any comparisons to eating sauerkraut right out of the crock. That’s because making homemade sauerkraut is one of the things from the past that not may people do anymore.

You can’t count my septuagenarian friend, Darrel Koehler in that group. Darrel has been making sauerkraut for years, something he learned from his parents while growing up in New York Mills, Minn.

Darrel and I worked together for years at the Grand Forks Herald and shared many a garden during that time, growing cabbage for sauerkraut. While Darrel has scaled back his gardening a bit  in recent years, he still has had time to make sauerkraut, with me providing most of the cabbage and he the preparation.

This year, however, I joined him, grating the cabbage for the kraut while he layered it in two 5-gallon buckets. (Darrel abandoned using his old Red Wing crocks a few years ago after discovering cracks in them.)

Just this past week, Darrel let me know this year’s kraut was ready, which meant I had to pull together what was needed for canning it — rings, lids, jars, canner, etc.

My share of the kraut amounted to about 17 quarts, which I processed Thursday while the wind was howling and the snow was blowing outside. And not before eating a few handfuls of kraut right out of the pail.


Sauerkraut, Sausage and Potatoes
½ cup butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves minced (four if you are a garlic lover)
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
Ground black pepper to taste
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 quart sauerkraut
1 pound sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
Put the cold butter in a cold pan with the diced onion, and slowly bring to a simmer on medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and simmer 2 more minutes. Add thyme and pepper.
Combine with the sauerkraut (undrained and not rinsed), sausage and potatoes. Bring to a simmer on the stove top. Cover loosely with foil and place in a preheated 225-degree oven for 3 hours.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole

Cabbage is a pretty popular vegetable among gardeners. It’s also one that knows no ethnic boundaries.

For example, Germans and Koreans love fermented cabbage. In Germany, it’s called sauerkraut. In Korea, it’s kimchi. The Irish have a favorite dish, colcannon, which traditional dish of mashed potatoes mixed with boiled cabbage or kale and either bacon or ham. And Cabbage rolls are common to the cuisines In the Middle East and Mediterranean areas, northern and central Europe as well as Iran, West Asia and northern China.

If you love cabbage like me, you’ve probably sampled some or all of the above and probably have your own favorite. I have a sweet spot for sauerkraut, and cabbage rolls also appeal to me.

But this week, I’ve discovered a tomato-based cabbage casserole that will give those two favorites a run for their money. It’s a nutritious and economical meal that will easily feed five or six.

And being a gardener whose cabbage crop was above average, you can be sure I’ll  that the multilayered vegetable packed with nutrients including manganese, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, folate, vitamins A and B6 will make many more appearances at our dinner table.

Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole
1 pound lean ground beef
½pound ground pork
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomato sauce
1 can tomato soup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 teaspoon dried dill
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
2½ cups cooked rice (brown or white)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head of cabbage chopped (approx. 8 cups)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan.
Brown ground beef, ground pork, onion and garlic until no pink remains. Drain any fat.
Add tomato sauce, tomato soup, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, dill, parsley and bay leaf. Simmer covered 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf and stir in rice.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add cabbage and cook until tender crisp.
Place half of the cabbage in the pan. Top with half of the beef/rice mixture. Repeat layers ending with beef/rice.
Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Not Your Mom’s Ratatouille

If you’re a gardener who grows a variety of vegetables, the classic Nicoise dish, ratatouille, should be right up your alley.

The stewed vegetable entree consisting of eggplant, tomato, pepper, zucchini, onion and herbs has been has been a favorite in France for many, many years, but it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that ratatouille rose to the prominence it enjoys today.

That’s when the animated movie by that name from Disney/Pixar came out and a rat with a keen sense of smell named Remy became a great Parisian chef after a soujourn into French countryside.

I had been familiar with the dish since the 1970s, when co-workers Tim Fought and Marcia Harris, both prolific gardeners, introduced me to the tasty entree. Since then, I usually make a pot or two of it every summer — it’s very easy to prepare — with fresh produce from my own garden.

My recipe, which follows, contains all the vegetables listed above plus a few more, thus the name “Not Your Mother’s Ratatouille.”

It’s not the classical dish that you would find in an upscale restaurant in Nice, France, but I’m sure that my French-Canadians ancestors who came to North America as peasants in the 17th and 18th centuries would say “Oui.”

Not Your Mom’s Ratatouille
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato bruschetta
6 Roma tomatoes, skins removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
½ green pepper, chopped
1 small or ½ large eggplant, cubed
1 medium summer squash, seeds removed and cut into small chunks
3 small okra pods, sliced
1 cup cooked corn kernels
½ cup kale, chopped
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup red wine
Place olive oil and add the onion, garlic and celery. Saute for a few minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients except the kale and basil. Cook for about 15 minutes and then add kale and basil. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.