Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Vera Cruz when you can have no booze ...

I admit it, that title is pretty lame. Cut me some slack here, I've had no sugar, no bread, no pasta, no booze for 11 days and it may be taking its toll. Sadly, this post has nothing to do with booze - but it is the first of many appearances of that crazy chicken head. You've been warned.

The truth is I'm not missing much of the above mentioned no-no's. I'm not starving and have had no cravings for any of the verboten foods. In fact, I took my niece and nephew out for pizza the other night and had no problem passing it by. It helps that what passes for pizza in New York pales in comparison to my much beloved New Haven pizza. Were we tucking ourselves into a cozy little booth at Modern Apizza ... I might be here confessing my sins. Who are we kidding? If we were at Modern those kids would have been lucky to get their hands on a slice!

But let's get back to the chicken head. One of the reasons I'm not feeling deprived is that I'm so beaten down I'd be happy with a fillet of dry wall and the proverbial side of mashed yeast. No, I'm kidding. Its because I'm eating delicious food. Well, in Diva-land we always eat delicious food - this girl can cook! Only now I'm tweaking the usual meals just a bit: removing some starches here, adding some vegetables there.

One recent success is my version of Chicken Vera Cruz. I don't know if this a true Vera Cruz recipe or not. I do know that its tasty! The husband lavished much praise upon the dish (and moi) so this is one I know you'll want to keep. You can certainly substitute a fish fillet of your choice for the chicken and, in fact, fish is the more common venue for this kind of sauce ... but the Diva is not fond of the sea creatures and prefers to leave them in the ocean where they belong. As always, *YMMV, so I'll leave the choice up to you.

I served it with a side of sauteed sugar snap peas and some roasted artichoke hearts. This recipe is for two, but it can easily be doubled or tripled, etc., I'll let you do the math. Bon Appetite!

* YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary.

Chicken Vera Cruz

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded to 1/2 thick
  • 5 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 of a medium sized white onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp. high-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. high-quality balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. of jarred Marinara sauce - any brand without sugar
  • 8 - 10 green olives, pitted and halved
  • minced fresh parsley
  • minced fresh tarragon
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl combine the cherry tomatoes, onions, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

Place each chicken breast on a large piece of aluminum foil. You'll be forming a packet, so position the chicken about 2 inches from one side of the foil. Spread 1 tbsp. of Marinara sauce over each chicken breast. Spoon the tomato/onion mixture over both breasts (the chicken's not yours) in equal measure. Top with olives, parsley and tarragon - to taste, so the amount is up to you. Fold foil up and over the chicken, sealing edges and sides to form a packet.

Place the packets on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake on the middle rack of the oven for @ 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Larger pieces may need more time, thinner ones less - you're smart, you'll figure it out. Just make sure they're cooked through. Remove from oven, serve and Enjoy!

Be careful opening the packets, as the steam will be HOT. I've yet to figure out how to do this without burning myself ... hopefully you'll do a better job. This recipe takes maybe 5 minutes of prep and the results are truly outstanding! I hope you'll try it.

Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas

  • fresh sugar snap peas
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • a few drops of dark Asian sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • black sesame seeds
Wash the snap peas and trim off any ugly looking ends with a knife. Heat olive oil in the pan until hot but not smoking. Add the snap peas and saute on high heat, stirring frequently so as not to let them burn. They will brown a bit and caramelize though, and that's a good thing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cooking time will vary as its really a matter of preference. I like mine crisp, so I cook them for perhaps three minutes or so. Test them as you go along and pull them off when you approve of the texture. Just before turning off the heat, drizzle in a few drops of the sesame oil, sprinkle on a liberal dose of the black sesame seeds, stir - and there's your side dish. Enjoy!

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