A lemony day all the way

I somehow got fixated on lemons today, so it’s fitting to end with another of my all-time favorite tangy recipes. In case you missed them, the other two were: “Chinese” Lemon Chicken and American “Roasted Lemon Chicken.”

Chicken Parmesan with Lemon

4 small or 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2cups bread crumbs
1/2 finely grated parmesan
5 tbsp. olive oil
2 lemons, halved
2 tbsp. cream or milk
flour–for dusting chicken
1-2 eggs
2 tbsp. butter
spring onions/chives/or parsley for garnish

If chicken breasts are large, filet in half. You want to start with filets about 1/2 inch thick. Do not pound; it only toughens the meat. In shallow bowl, lightly beat eggs; add cream and 1 tbsp. olive oil, beating again lightly. Mix bread crumbs and parmesan together and place on cutting board. Dust breasts in flour, pat off excess, dip into egg mixture, then place on bread crumbs. Cover with crumbs and press hard with palm. Turn over, repeat process several times. By now your filets (or small chicken breasts) should be about 1/4 inch thick–any thicker and you’ll have to fry them too long, which will damage or burn the breading in order to get the meat done. Place breaded breasts on paper bag.

Heat remaining olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add butter, then add chicken as soon as butter stops bubbling. Fry until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes, then flip. Wait 1-2 minutes for bottom to seal, then drizzle lemon juice over breasts. Continue to cook until golden brown, remove and drain on paper towel or bag. Garnish and serve.

You can use this recipe with pork loins or veal cutlets, too.

[Note: most “traditional” chicken parmesan is served with marinara sauce and mozzarella on top and then flash broiled. This is my personal take on this dish; I prefer the simplicity and the tang of the lemon. If you give it a try, let me know whether it suited your taste buds.]

Chocolate cheesecake fit for the gods

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup powdered sugar
12 tbsp melted unsalted butter

Filling:
2 lbs cream cheese (@ room temp.)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
5 whole eggs (@ room temp.)
4 oz. semi-sweet melted chocolate

Crust: Butter and flour a 9-inch springform cake pan. Set aside. Mix graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter together. Press crust into bottom and sides of cake pan. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Filling: Mix cream cheese on low speed for 10 min. Add sugar and lemon juice. Mix to blend. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour all but one cup of filling into prepared crust. Melt chocolate and add slowly to reserved cup of filling. Use a pastry tube and starting from center, draw a spiral onto cake batter. Using the tip of a knife and starting from the center, lightly pull the knife tip through the spiral as if cutting cheesecake into quarters. Repeat, “cutting” quarters in half, from center to rim or, to alter the design, draw from rim to center.

Bake at 300° for about 1 hour. Cake should be golden brown, pulling away from sides of pan and barely firm in the center. Allow to cool for several hours before placing in refrigerator overnight.

Variations: Try substituting sambuca or amaretto for lemon juice!!

Broccoli Pasticcio

Filling:
2-3 cups broccoli florets
4 tbsp butter
4 eggs
salt (to taste)
½ cup grated reggiano parmesan (more or less; according to taste)
diced red bell pepper (optional; for color & sweetness)

Variations: green beans & sweet onion; oysters & spinach; asparagus & red bell pepper; mix and match your favorite flavors.

Crust:
¼ cup bread crumbs (homemade with good bread = better crust)
6-8in. springform (or soufflé) pan

Preheat oven to 375°. Sauté broccoli (and other veggies, if using) in 3 tbsp. butter over medium high heat & season with salt to taste. The idea here is to lightly pre-cook (soften); don’t overcook. Set aside to cool.

Lightly beat eggs in large mixing bowl, then fold in parmesan. Smear remaining butter in springform pan and coat with bread crumbs. Tap out excess crumbs.

Prepare béchamel sauce. Add broccoli to eggs and fold together. Add ½ cup béchamel and fold in, then add remaining béchamel, fold well and pour into springform pan. (If you add all of the sauce at once, the heat will curdle the eggs.) Sprinkle extra parmesan on top.

Bake for 45 minutes until golden on top. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Béchamel Sauce:
1½ cups milk
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
salt (to taste)
white (or black) pepper (to taste)
nutmeg (grated to taste; a little goes a long way)

Making a roux:
Heat milk over low heat in small pot; don’t let it burn. Melt butter over low to medium low heat in separate pot, add flour when butter begins to bubble, stirring briskly with a whisk. Cook 4-5 minutes. Do not let flour brown.

Add hot milk to roux in small amounts, about half a cup at a time, stirring (whisking) briskly until all milk has been incorporated. Place over medium low to medium heat, add salt and cook while stirring until sauce is as dense as thick cream. If it seems too thick, add a little more hot milk (or water) at a time; stirring until it has the right consistency. It should smoothly coat a wooden spoon; not completely running off, nor sticking.

Some thoughts about rouxs (for the novice cook):
Mastering how to make a roux is a wonderfully versatile technique for making many kinds of sauces (or gravies)…from this white, creamy béchamel sauce to the other spectrum…a deep brown and nutty tasting Cajun roux.

Whether it’s a white sauce or a brown sauce, the key is not to burn the flour. For white sauces, you only want to cook the roux enough so that the sauce doesn’t taste like flour. For brown sauces, you want to brown, not burn the flour, to get the color and that nutty flavor. The best technique for controlling heat is simply to lift the pot or pan off and continue whisking until the bubbling subsides somewhat and then replace over heat.

This recipe may feel a little challenging the first time around, but it’s actually pretty easy once you are comfortable making the roux.

Cook with love! Eat with family & friends! Hope you enjoy!