Smoked Chicken Breast Stuffed with Seasoned Cherries

Stuffed with cherries and smoked chicken breasts

Hot smoked chicken breasts make any meal exciting! Salads, sandwiches, soups, pasta dishes — you name it! — will benefit if you add some smoked lean chicken. But cooking skinless and boneless chicken breasts is easy and challenging at the same time. To make them tender and juicy we need to protect their moisture and to make them uniformly thick. Usually, a combination of pounding and brining is a solution. In this recipe, we make a pocket to stuff it with moist and/or fatty ingredients instead of pounding. As a bonus, different stuffings add interesting flavors to otherwise mild-tasting chicken.

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Gratin Dauphinois | Potato Gratin

Potato gratin, a classic gratin dauphinois, or scalloped potatoes

I love this side dish for being so simple to make, yet extremely attractive. Similar to lasagna or moussaka, potato gratin should be cooked in advance, refrigerated to set, removed from the pan, sliced to portions while cold, and reheated before serving. If all steps are done in that order, a humble potato makes an eye-catching side dish, a beautiful element of any plated dinner.

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Vegetable Moussaka

Vegetable Moussaka

This casserole is a celebration of vegetables! Look at the list of ingredients. Their variety is stunning! That’s why the complexity of this dish flavors conquers the taste buds of vegetarians and carnivores alike. Just like any other layered dish, benefits from being cooked in advance, set in a refrigerator for a few hours and reheated portioned right before serving. It helps to develop flavors and keep colorful layers presentable.

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Maslenitsa | Crepe Week, Day 4 | U-snooze U-loose Crepes

U-snoose U-loose Crepes with ground meat and BBQ sauce

A batch of 24 crepes (see a link to my favorite crepes recipe in Recipe Notes) provides 3-4 days of different breakfasts and lunches for two every week. Make crepes in advance, keep them covered with plastic wrap in a refrigerator, and quickly serve an endless variety of foods! With a pile of crepes and two more simple ingredients like ground meat and BBQ sauce, you can make a quick, attractive, and filling appetizer for unexpected (or expected) friends. Serve it in individual ramekins or a large baking dish — easy to grab bite-size rolls will be gone in no time! Thus the name.

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Maslenitsa | Crepe Week, Day 3 | Crespelle ai frutti di mare

Crespelle ai frutti di mare | Crepes with Assorted Seafood (Salmon, Bay Scalops, Sea Bass, Prawns), Bechamel, and Asiago Cheese

Crepes — a type of very thin pastry — exist in the majority of world cuisines. Nevertheless, when I discovered Italian crespelle, it was a surprise for me. Italian cuisine is associated with pasta and pizza in my mind, so I assumed Italians would rather use flour for those. While going through many crespelle recipes, it became clear that crepes in Italy are mostly used as a quick version of stuffed pasta. When stuffed, rolled, and baked covered with sauce and grated cheese, they relate to cannelloni. When stuffed, folded into triangles (fazzoletti di crespelle or “crepe handkerchiefs”), and baked with a sauce and grated cheese, they are a shortcut for lasagna, aren’t they?

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Romanesco Salad with Israeli Couscous, Mushrooms, and Asparagus

Romanesco Salad with Mushrooms, Ptitim,  Asparagus, and Garlicy Pesto

Have you ever been served a dish with food so beautiful you felt it was a crime to eat it? Imagine a cook, who is so charmed by the natural beauty of raw ingredients and hesitates to cook them. That’s what I feel when I see Romanesco Broccoli. What is the best way to put it on a pedestal of our dinner plate? How to protect its color and shape? How to bring out its nutty flavor and crunchy texture?

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Family Recipes: My Mom’s Creamed Mackerel with Vegetables

Not sure how widespread it was in the Soviet era and what variations existed out there. We discussed it in LCL Group on Facebook and, apparently, the recipe with tomatoes was more popular. In other regions, pink salmon (aka Gorbusha) was more available than mackerel and was cooked similarly. The recipe below is how my Mom made it. I loved eating creamed mackerel with vegetables as a cold appetizer after school. My favorite part of this dish was the vegetables — naturally sweet, slightly flavored with sea salt and umami, and rounded with silky cream. They had to be soft and barely crunchy.

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Christmas Goose

Roasted Goose

Just like Bizet’s Carmen, a goose has it all: a memorable juicy meat and a haunting golden skin, a terrific variety of textures and flavors, a romance with highs and lows of heat, and a painful tragedy of the amount of fat.

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As American As: Oysters

Oyster Loaf | La Mediatrice

It’s amusing to read historical recipes and observe how the perception of foods changes over time. At first, all those stories about delicacies we highly value today being served as dog or prison food in old times seem shocking and funny. On the second thought, it’s logical. It’s in human nature to praise what is not easily available and disregard what is more abundant. Oysters are different. “There were always oysters, and there were those to praise them.” Are oysters to be admired forever?

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As American As: Mincemeat Pie

Mincemeat pie

Even though American taste buds are known for the love of sweet and salty food combinations, traditional Mincemeat pie is seen today as an acquired taste. There are many implications on why early settlers combined savory meat and ingredients that are considered belonging to dessert dishes. Was it really for food preservation purposes or our ancestors were fond of bold flavors?

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Culinary coach and personal chef with extensive knowledge of cuisines from cultures around the world. I invite you into my cooking lab to share my discoveries.
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