While my friends + fam were anticipating Hurricane Irene’s wrath in the Northeast, I was in sunny, hurricane-free Florida… oh, the beautiful irony! Sunshine, my dear friend and the amazing creative behind Blog Full of Jelly, moved to Sarasota this past spring and I was stoked to finally make a visit down to see her new home. Kelly, a baker at Whole Foods + Philly friend of Sunshine’s, was visiting at the same time so we had a killer trifecta of creative food lovers. We did our share of eating out, but Sunshine upped her wonderful hostess status by making her version of Martha Stewart’s Summer Corn Chowder. I’m glad I had my camera and the beautiful Florida sunlight to shoot our way to a delicious bowl.
Last season of Top Chef, we started a tradition of “Family Dinners” at my house to watch each week’s episode along with a home-cooked meal! Tom, Dre, & Lex were the regulars at last season’s dinners, but couldn’t be happier to add Sarah to this year’s season. She brought along her homemade pizza dough for the return of Top Chef AND the return of “Build Your Own Pizza Night,” my favorite dinner theme!
The original plan was to do grilled pizzas, but after a summer of cooking and roasting Grape Tomatoes (via The Bitten Word’s amazing recipe) & Yellow Bell Peppers for pizza toppings, my grill ran out of gas. At least we always have the oven for back-up. I also prepared sauteed Zucchini, Chicken Andouille Sausage, Crab Meat, & Creole Shrimp, along with shredded Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda, Asiago, & Ricotta Cheeses, as topping options. Can’t forget some tomato sauce, as well! We all got to loading our shells with Dre opting for a Crab White Pizza & Tom piling on just about everying!
We were 3 episodes behind with all of our busy schedules, so we got together on a Thursday night to cook & recap via the DVR while the pizzas baked to perfection…
Build Your Own Pizza Night
Homemade Pizza Dough a la Sarah
Roasted Tomatoes, Yellow Bell Peppers, & Zucchini
Chicken Andoille Sausage
Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda, Asiago, & Ricotta
Fresh Basil & Lemon-Thyme
My boyfriend has come to love food porn as much as I do, so when he sent me Pinch My Salt‘s step by step photo blog of Grilled Chicken Under a Brick, I couldn’t wait to get my spatchcock & grill on! Dre & I were both working late on a Friday night, and seeing that I already learned my lesson in grilling in the dark, I decided to at least get my meal prepped that night for a yummy pre-work lunch the next day.
When there’s chicken of any kind on sale, I impulsively pack my already stuffed freezer with as much as I can. I thawed one of the roasting chickens to make some space for my next grocery trip, watched this very helpful video on butterflying a whole chicken, & got to butchering! Call me sadistic (I’ll spare my veggie friends/readers from seeing the pics), but I really enjoyed the whole hands-on process of removing the spine & breast bone of my chicken so it could lay flat for its visit to the grill.
I picked some Fresh Herbs from my garden, chopped, & combined with Olive Oil & Minced Garlic for a simple chicken rub. I coated both sides of the chicken & marinated in the fridge overnight. I also peeled & cubed a butternut squash; to me, its serves as a starch & veggie side to any meal.
Saturday morning, we got the grilled warmed to about 350 degrees per the Whole Foods recipe that Pinch My Salt referenced. I seasoned the Butternut Squash with Fresh & Dried Herbs, Paprika, Red Pepper Flakes, S&P, Garlic, & Olive Oil and divided them among 4 foil pouches while the chilled chicken came up to temperature. When it came to grill time, I realized that, uh… umm… I didn’t have any bricks! So the only troubleshoot I could come up with was a heavy, foil-covered cast iron pan, which proved to be a perfect substitution. The original recipe called for a 3-4lb chicken, but I was working with a 7lb bird, so it took about 20-25 minutes per side. I tossed the squash pouches onto the grill, too, as they were tender after flipping a few times in about 40 minutes. Towards the end of grilling, the drums of the chicken fell off, but it fortunately gave them some extra time to cook when the breast & wings were perfect.
All future birds cooked in my household will surely be spatchcocked & grilled, as this was the juiciest & tastiest one I’ve ever made. Looking forward to a Turkey Under ALOT of Bricks this Thanksgiving!
Grilled: Chicken Under a “Brick” & Herb Butternut Squash
Butterflied Whole 7lb Chicken – Rubbed & marinated w/ Basil, Lemon-Thyme, Parsley, Rosemary, Minced Garlic, & EVOO, grilled under a Cast Iron Pan
Grilled Butternut Squash – Cubed & tossed w/ Fresh & Dried Herbs, Paprika, Red Pepper Flakes, S&P, Garlic, & Olive Oil, grilled in foil packets
One of my favorite quick & economical meals is Spicy Fish Tacos. Acme offers frozen Tilapia fillets in single portions at $1.00 apiece, so my freezer is always stocked with the easy to defrost packets. Summer hosts the best vegetables so fresh avocado, grape tomatoes, romaine, & green onion were mandatory additions! I had a bit more time on my hands on this quiet Sunday evening, so I had no qualms spending a bit more time in the kitchen pairing it with a Sweet Pepper & Cheddar Risotto. Thank goodness for Dre, my handsome kitchen assistant, as he took on the tiring task of continually stirring the rice.
Spicy Fish Tacos & Mex-Risotto:
Spicy Tilapia Fillets – Marinated in Sazon, Sriracha, Garlic, Shallots, & Lime Juice, Pan-Fried
Mexi-Risotto – Red, Orange & Yellow Sweet Peppers, Cheddar, Garlic, Shallots, Chicken Stock, & Arborio
P.S. I have 4 meals in the queue waiting to be blogged about so you can continue to drool over their deliciousness! Between lots of wedding planning @ work and a visit from Mama, running low on blog time. Promise updates SOON!!
As many of you know, I not only love cooking, eating, & sharing meals with friends & fam – I work in the food biz, too! This November I’ll celebrate 6 years with Max & Me Catering. I moved up the ranks from the greenest of banquet servers to my current title of Senior Sales Manager. I have the not always glamorous, but very rewarding, job of planning weddings, fundraisers, convention events, & corporate galas from the the menu & timeline to the look & “feel” of the events. But enough of all that… it’s really the food I care about!
Today, Sous Chef Derek made us an awesome summer afternoon snack! Possibly the best “shortcake” I’ve ever had & damn sure the best biscuits! Apparently some sort of process involving freezing & grating butter & sour cream is what makes them so scrumptious! Can’t wait until the next Max & Me snacktime…
Friday night, I scooped the man from work & we headed to PYT, TommyUp’s newly-launched burger & shake bar at the Piazza at Schmidt’s. My patronage is the least I can offer to someone who has provided me with some epic party memories over the last 5 years! A storm was astir, so we sat ourselves at the strategically-placed yellow tables protected by the tunnel entrance-ways. We placed our order with the anticipated hipster waitress, adorable in her leopard dress, platinum bangs, & bright smile. 20 minutes later, magic arrived… complete with a stunning boom of thunder!