Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens with Roasted Vegetables

The Cornish game hen is a young immature chicken (usually 5 to 6 weeks of age), weighing not more than 2 pounds ready-to-cook weight.  It is a hybrid chicken sold whole. Despite the name, it's not a game bird, but actually a type of domestic chicken. Though the bird is called a "hen," it can be either male or female. In addition to commanding a higher price, the game hens have a shorter growing span, 28 to 30 days as opposed to 42 or more for a regular chicken.

We eat Cornish hens quite often.  Although a little more expensive than the whole chicken, based on their size, they're still super inexpensive and easy to roast, grill or try this method if you have a rotisserie.  The hens were juicy and delicious as the meat was falling off of the bone.  The vegetables were like something from a pot roast, cooked to perfection.

2 Cornish Hens
Spice rub instead of just salt - use your favorite spice rub on the hens, making sure you get it under the skin of the breast and in the cavity of the hen.
Pepper to taste
olive oil
Aluminum foil drip pans (9" x 13", or whatever fits your grill)
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
4 carrots, cut into chunks 
2 heads of garlic
2 whole jalapenos

Pre-salting the hens:

One day before cooking, rinse and dry the hens. Carefully run your finger under the skin on the breast to loosen it. Sprinkle each bird all over with 1 tsp of salt - I get some inside the cavity, some under the loosened skin on the breast, and then coat the outside with the rest, concentrating on the thick part of the breasts and the legs. Put the chickens in a pan where they have a little space around them, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Prepare the grill:

Set your grill up for rotisserie cooking at high heat. For our Viking grill this means turning the two outer burners (burners 1 and 6) to high, and turning the infrared burner to high. Then I put my drip pans in the middle, over the unlit burners.

Cooking the hens:

Put the spit on the grill, put your foil pans with the veggies under the hens, and start the spit spinning. Cook with the lid closed. It will take for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the hens. (It took 35 minutes for my 1.5lb hens). Check the internal temp on the hens after 20 minutes, and every 10 minutes thereafter - you want 160*F to 165*F in the breast, and 170*F to 180*F in the thigh. Remove the spit from the grill (while wearing gloves!), and remove the hens from the spit. Cover the hens with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Make a sauce from the drippings (Optional):

If the drippings aren't burnt, remove the drip pans from the grill. Skim off the fat, then scrape the rest of the drippings into a small saucepan. Add one cup of homemade chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Add any juices that come out of the chicken during the resting and carving to the saucepan. Simmer until slightly thickened, then add salt and pepper to taste. (Note: watch out for burnt or sooty drippings, especially if you cooked on a charcoal grill. Either skip the drippings, or just make a sauce by reducing some homemade stock, and adding the juices from carving.)

Final prep and serve:

Cut the hens in half - I find a half a hen to be a good serving for an adult, with one hen per person if they're a big eater.  On a cutting board, run a chef's knife through the cavity and split the chicken along the backbone, then turn it over and split through the breast.

Friday, July 29, 2011

David's Chocolate Banana Milkshake

When I was pregnant with our oldest daughter, Avery, 18 years ago, David concocted this to help satisfy my chocolate cravings.  I gained over 60 pounds with that pregnancy probably because of the amount of shakes I consumed.  =)  Today Chocolate banana milkshakes are my weakness and David has got these sinfully wonderful treats down to an art.  Here's his recipe as he described to me how he makes his shakes.  Perfect ending to a hot summer day!  Enjoy!

2 scoops of Blue Bonnet Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream per glass
1 ripe banana
"a heapin', helpin', lovin'" spoonful of Nestle Quick
2 - 3 "gurgles" of milk

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spanish Chicken and Chorizo Paella

I saw Paula Deen cooking this on her show and couldn't wait to try this recipe because we all love Paella prepared any which way.  We did do a little tweaking, but not much.

This version of Paella is absolutely great, easy to make and the family ate it up. Everyone had seconds, except Dylan (12), who went back for thirds.  It's not the same Paella one would get in Spain, but it's still very good. This is a great dish for someone who likes Spanish food but not seafood, since traditional Paella is made with seafood.   It's important to not substitute the Spanish chorizo with Mexican chorizo because the smoky flavor of the Spanish-style chorizo is what makes this dish. I added a couple of dashes of hot sauce on my serving to 'kick it up a notch' and that, with a little fresh lemon juice on top, really set the flavors off.  I will definitely be making this again and will maybe try adding shrimp next time.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 chicken, cut legs, drumsticks and thighs
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp paprika
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 lbs Spanish style chorizo links, cut into slices on the bias
2 cups short-grain rice (recommended: Valencia or Arborio)
Pinch saffron threads
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
Lemon wedges, for service

Heat a paella pan or very large, shallow skillet or pot, preferably with 2 handles over high heat.

Cook's note: A large cast iron skillet would work here.

Pour in the olive oil and let it heat up. Season the chicken all over with salt, pepper and paprika. Sear in the olive oil until browned all over. Transfer to a plate with tongs.

Lower the heat to medium and saute the onions, bell pepper and garlic until softened. Stir in the diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and chorizo. Bring the liquid to a boil and then stir in the rice and saffron. Add the browned chicken pieces. The rice should be completely covered with liquid. Cook the paella without stirring for 20 minutes. When the liquid has all been absorbed, pour the peas over the top of the pot, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a kitchen towel. Let stand 5 minutes and then serve with lemon wedges and your favorite hot sauce.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pho Ga or Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Our signature dish is most certainly pho.  Typically we make our pho with beef, but we also like to switch it up and sometimes we make it with shrimp.  Last weekend we tried something different and we made another version with some leftover, roasted chicken and this recipe was another keeper.  We also had some leftover grilled corn that we added to this already flavorful soup.  The beauty of pho is you can add just about anything you want.  This recipe is a healthier rendition and it got 5 thumbs up from the McQuaid clan.

The perfect accompaniment to pho are shrimp spring rolls we serve with a peanut sauce.  So fresh and delicious they get gobbled up in no time. 

Spring Rolls

1 stewing hen, about 5 pounds
2 lbs chicken bones or chicken necks
4 quarts cold water
1 small onion, quartered

2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 ribs of celery, cut into chunks
1 oz fresh ginger, crushed
4 cloves of garlic, smashed

12 whole cloves
12 whole peppercorns
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
chicken bouillon cubes

1/2 lb rice stick
1 whole cooked chicken breast (2 halves), thinly sliced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced

8 to 12 fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnishing soup
4 to 8 fresh basil sprigs, for garnishing soup
4 fresh mint sprigs, for garnishing soup
2 cups fresh bean sprouts, for garnishing soup
2 limes, cut into wedges, for garnishing soup
2 to 3 sliced fresh jalapeno, Serrano, or Thai chile peppers, for garnishing soup
Sriracha chili sauce, for serving
Fish sauce, for serving

Soy sauce, for serving

Cut the hen into 8 pieces and discard any excess fat. Rinse chicken bones and necks with cold water and place in a stockpot. Add the water, onion, carrots, celery, ginger, garlic, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 3 hours; do not allow the liquid to boil to ensure a clear broth.

Remove and discard the hen and bones. Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve or chinois lined with cheesecloth. Return the broth to a large soup pot and continue to simmer until reduced to a volume of 2 1/2 or 3 quarts. Season with salt and bouillon, to taste, and keep hot while you assemble the remaining ingredients.

Prepare the rice stick by placing it in a pot of boiling water; boil for 4 minutes. Once done, transfer to a colander and drain well. Rinse well under cold running water. Drain thoroughly before using.

When ready to serve the soup, for each serving ladle 2 cups of the hot broth into a large soup bowl. Quickly dip the cooked noodles in the remaining hot broth to rewarm, then place a handful of noodles in each bowl. Divide the sliced chicken breast and onion slices between the bowls, laying the slices over the top of the noodles. Serve the soup immediately, with the fresh cilantro, basil, mint, bean sprouts, lime wedges and jalapeno peppers in baskets or on a big plate on the table for each person to garnish their own soup, as desired. Add chili sauce, soy sauce and/or fish sauce, to taste, if desired.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Smothered in Cream Gravy with Scrambled Eggs on the Side

Here's a classic Southern breakfast.  I have always been a huge fan of biscuits, sausage and gravy, but this recipe is sure to knock your socks off!


1 lb ground pork
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped to a paste
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh sage
1 TBSP finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp onion powder
2 TBSP canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Black Pepper Buttermilk Biscuits:

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more to dust
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
12 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, not super fine and not coarse, somewhere in between

Cream Gravy:

2 cups whole milk
2 TBSP unsalted butter
2 TBSP flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Scrambled Eggs:

8 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 TBSP unsalted butter

For the Sausage: 

Combine the pork, garlic, sage, thyme, onion powder, and oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover the sausage and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Cook's Note: The sausage can be prepared 8 hours in advance and refrigerated. Form the sausage mixture into 8 patties. Heat a large nonstick pan over high heat and cook the patties until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.

For the Black Pepper Buttermilk Biscuits: 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Using a dough cutter, combine the ingredients until they are incorporated. Cut in the butter using your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and gently mix until the mixture just begins to come together.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly-floured counter. Pat the dough into a 10 by 12-inch rectangle about 3/4-inch thick. Use a 2-inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits. Press together the scraps of dough, and repeat the process. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; brush the tops with cream and sprinkle with the black pepper. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on a baking rack. Yields: 10 to 12 biscuits

For the Cream Gravy: 

Put the milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Melt the butter in a second small saucepan over medium heat, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, do not allow the flour to color. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, increase the heat to high and continue whisking until the sauce begins to thicken and the raw taste of the flour has been cooked out, about 5 minutes; season with the salt and pepper. Keep warm. Yield: 2 cups

For the Eggs: 

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter over low heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add the eggs and cook slowly, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft curds form.

Slice each biscuit in half and put a sausage patty on the bottom of each biscuit and place the other half on top. Serve 2 sausage biscuits per person. Serve with cream sauce and scrambled eggs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Buffalo-Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

David was very skeptical of adding chicken to macaroni and cheese, but we all really liked this spicy casserole.  This makes a ton of food, so you might want to cut the recipe in half.  It made enough to fill a 9 x 13" pan plus a square pan that I froze minus the blue cheese and panko topping that I will add prior to cooking.  The original portion would be a great addition to a Super Bowl spread or any large gathering.

7 TBSP unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
Kosher salt
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank's)
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
2 tsp dry mustard
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 lb yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
8 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the half-and-half, then add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.

Mix the macaroni, chicken and cheese sauce all together.  Spread in the prepared baking dish.  There will be enough leftover to put in a prepared square tin  for freezing for another day.  Don't put the panko topping on the casserole you freeze.  When cooking the frozen one defrost and continue as follows.

Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

*This recipe is compliments of the Food Network.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grilled Salmon with Herb and Meyer Lemon Compound Butter

This is a fabulously rich salmon with the herb and lemon compound butter adding even more richness and goodness.  I love my grilled salmon on Triscuit crackers.  With the leftover salmon I will make a spread to top onto toast, bagels or crackers. 

Salmon Spread 

1 stick butter, room temperature
2 Meyer lemons, zested
1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped
1/2 bunch thyme, picked and finely chopped (lemon thyme is even better)
1 small clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
Kosher salt

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin-on
Extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the butter, zest, herbs and garlic. Mix until everything is well mixed. Season, to taste, with salt. If using right away, keep the butter at room temperature. If making ahead, reserve in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using.

Preheat grill to medium.

Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush and oil the grill. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the clean, preheated grill. After 2 to 3 minutes, rotate the salmon 90 degrees to create cross-hatch grill marks on the salmon skin. Cook the salmon for another 3 to 4 minutes. As the salmon cooks it will turn from translucent orange to opaque pink.

Turn the salmon over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. If the salmon starts to burn, or the flames flare up move the fish to a cooler part of the grill.* Remove from the grill and top with the room temperature compound butter. The butter should act as a sauce and melt over and coat the grilled salmon.

*Tip: It is a general rule to cook fish for 8 minutes per inch of thickness.

**This recipe is courtesy of The Food Network's Anne Burrell.

Chicken L'Orange

Serve this with white rice and steamed vegetables and you have yourself a super easy, yet yummy and satisfying weeknight meal. 

2 whole chicken breasts, split, skinned and boned
2 TBSP butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBSP fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp cornstarch
2/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup Heinz 57 Sauce
1/4 cup orange marmalade
slivered toasted almonds

In a large skillet or wok, slowly saute' chicken in butter, about 8 - 10 minutes; add the garlic and ginger towards the end of sauteing the chicken.  Remove and set aside.

Mix cornstarch and juice, stir in 57 Sauce and marmalade.  Pour into skillet, heat, stirring until thickened.  Place chicken in sauce.  Heat through.  Garnish with almonds.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Poole's Famous Chocolate Chip Cake

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DYLAN!!  It was Dylan's Birthday July the 7th and we had an action packed couple of weekends at our lake house at Lake Texoma celebrating the 4th of July and Dylan's b-day.  We successfully wore the kids completely out on the tube both weekends.  I post this recipe in honor of Dylan's Birthday. I hope it was a good one, Buddy!

Our neighbors and dear friends, the Poole family are known to occasionally make this fabulous cake for our kids on their b-day because this is one of their favorites.  This recipe originated from Bryan's Mom, Nancy Poole.  Our family all agrees this is one of the best chocolate cakes we've ever tasted.  You can glaze the cake with the icing as in the recipe or just simply dust with powdered sugar.  A big slice of this cake is perfect paired up with a big, ice cold glass of milk.  We truly have the best neighbors ever!!  Thanks for sharing Lee and Bryan.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box vanilla instant pudding
1 small box chocolate instant pudding
4 eggs
1 - 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix all of the ingredients together.  Pour into a well greased and lightly flowered bundt pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack in the pan for at least 15 minutes.  Ice cake once it's completely cooled.

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup milk
3 oz chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

After the cake cooks, combine sugar, butter and milk and heat until it becomes to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute on low heat.  Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and vanilla.  Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Costa Rica Sunrise Breakfast

I wish I could take credit for this wonderful creation and it's name.  This is an impromptu breakfast David fixed for the kids and me over over the weekend.  So easy and quite satisfying when adding some bacon and fresh fruit on the side.  

4 slices of whole wheat bread
4 eggs
4 TBSP butter, divided
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Using a 2 - 3" circular cookie cutter (or use the rim of a glass) make holes in your bread; set aside.  In a saute pan add 1 TBSP butter and melt over medium high heat.  Lightly toast the bread on each side.  Crack an egg in the hole you created in the bread; fry until the whites turn good and white and are set.  Flip the bread and egg and fry for an additional few seconds.  Top with some shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper.