Boozin’ it Up in the Kitchen… or Tequila/Rum Love Fest at Heather’s

The chicken is marinating and so am I!

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After being out of town for a fair bit, it has been nice to be home, puttering around “The Roost” and enjoying the simple pleasures of my home. The moment that I returned, I dumped by suitcase on the bed and pet the cat, and was out the door again to donate blood. There has been a tremendous shortage of blood this summer and “the vampires” were calling me even while I was on vacation, pleading for me to make an appointment. I was happy to oblige. Apparently I am a universal donor and as healthy as a horse (no comments please). So, after doing my civic duty, I was in great need for sustenance! They recommend a good hearty meal after a donation and I had defrosted chicken breasts but was feeling tremendously uninspired. Gladly, and luckily for me, my friend Susan came to the rescue with a couple of recipe suggestions.

One of them tickled my fancy, Southwest Skillet Chicken, but I lacked several of the necessary ingredients and was not inclined to trek to the market in the foggy blustering wind (uphill). Another great sounding recipe she suggested was Tequila Lime Chicken, which sounded great too. However I was still looking for inspiration, I reviewed the contents of my capacious pantry and discovered a can of crispy onion rings.

Years ago, Susan had commented in an email that she had made crispy onion baked chicken and I pounced on her vigorously to please share exactly what that recipe entailed. Slightly sheepishly she confessed the recipe came off the label of the canned crispy onion rings, and it is entirely delectable. So thereupon finding this forgotten can of crispy onions I was tempted to just make that for dinner. But my current state of ennui was generated by lack of inspiration and I had made and happily consumed this dish many times before, so being a woman of the 21st century I did what anyone would do – polled my pals on Twitter! Numerous responses flooded in, most voted for the crispy onion chicken and just DRINK the tequila, which of course I had planned on doing (heh, heh). Then it struck me, why not just combine the two recipes? Der.

Et, voila, (and apologies for no pictures) a new recipe was born. What a great combination! The tangy lime and tequila and garlic go really well with the oniony crunchy coating. I demolished them! They would be great for a picnic too. I was very happy and the tequila was delicious!

A few nights later, I was invited over to a dinner, with my pals Anna and her db Robert, at a new friend’s home. Such a treat to have someone else cook! After much persuasion, Anna convinced our host to allow us to bring dessert. Since Anna has a monstrously busy job I happily volunteered to make the dessert and settled on one of my all time favorite cakes, Piña Colada cake. This wonderfully decadent recipe is also a contribution to my files by my dear pal Susan (thank heavens for such good friends!). It’s really one of those non-recipes, where you combine cake mix with various delicious add-ins to make something wonderful. Since I didn’t make it entirely from scratch I was feeling rather hangdog about including it here but, you know, I feel I must say something about that.

I read many, many food blogs, written by amazing and creative cooks and chefs, and their creations are beautiful and delicious and amazing. I don’t feel capable of competing sometimes with them (hello, esteem, are you there??). Sometimes, you just need a good, fast and utterly delicious dish that is dependable. Of the dozen or so times I have made dishes such as I am describing today, the compliments that pour in make me realize that I don’t always have prepare a complicated 27 ingredient and all day process type of recipe in order to make a tasty dish. Sometimes I can do (dare I say it) a “Sandra Lee” kind of creation (although hardly that processed, ick) and that using a cake mix or a can of crispy onion rings doesn’t make me a bad cook. I truly prefer not to use processed foods because I despise trans fats, HGCS and the like, so I judiciously choose partially prepared packaged foods upon occasion and incorporate them into my cooking with care. So there. Now where was I?

Oh yes, Piña Colada cake! This cake was my oft-requested standby for the sumptuous Opera in the Park picnics, where hung-over and footsore we would dutifully troop to Golden Gate Park the day after Opening Night with a picnic to hear our wonderful artists and orchestra perform under foggy skies and warm blankets. Preparing for a picnic with high culinary standards (some attendees would have candelabras – faux-gawds sake – and there is a contest for the most deluxe spread with table decorations) requires a fine degree of advance preparation, creativity, and timing. After all, the night before I did have to gussie myself up to the 9th degree, host VIP guests and board members, and discretely drink a lot of champagne and consume as much caviar as possible while displaying complete professionalism during the parties – after all I was working! To this end, and to pretend that it was still summer, I would always make Carmen Miranda Sangria, shrimp summer rolls, my attempt at Eloise’s butter fried chicken (recipes for another post) and Piña Colada cake. It truly is a delicious and fool-proof recipe and inevitably would disappear by mid-picnic. Once I recall some folks on the blanket next to ours begged piteously for a slice, and I was happy to oblige, and they were even happier to receive! Fun memories, that.

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(darling Pablo at Opera in the Park, our picnic mascot)

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So for Saturday’s dinner party, I raced to the store that morning and procured the necessary ingredients (and a breakfast burrito) and dashed home to slap the cake together before my friends picked me up to venture across the Bay to the hinterlands of Benicia. We had such a fun evening. Dinner was lovely. Our host’s home was beautifully put together (for a newly bachelor-ed gentleman) and after dinner we had an outing! We toured darling downtown Benicia, complete with the best playground ever, and after reliving our childhood with a quick romp down the slides, fire poles and a session on the swings, we had a lovely walk amongst the shops and restaurants and the scenic pier. Benicia’s old downtown is really quaint and vibrant! We returned for a marvelous slab of cake (patting myself on the back) and a fond adieu to our host for a delightful evening and had a quick return across several bridges to SF.

I feel so lucky to have such wonderful old (and new) friends; they contribute greatly to my life in terms of good times, good recipes and good fun.

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REC: Crispy Onion-Baked Tequila-Lime Chicken

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Marinade:

2-3 limes, juiced (tip, microwave the limes for 30 seconds, it really helps them express their juice)

1 orange, juiced

1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno or 1/2 t chipotle powder (I used chipotle)

1 t cumin

2 T olive oil

1/4 cup tequila (plus more for the chef! I have been using Dos Lunas anejo tequila for sipping, and used up the last of my Hornitas silver for the recipe)

2 chicken breasts – cut into tenderloin sized strips

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Coating:

1 large can Durkee crispy onions, crushed

1 egg + 1 T water, beaten together

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Combine marinade ingredients with chicken in a bowl or bag and marinate for an hour or up to overnight. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil.

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Dip chicken into egg, then coat well with the onion crumbs. I like to pat the remaining onion crumbs on top of the breaded chicken as well. Arrange on a baking tray and bake 15-20 minutes (depending upon size of the chicken. If you are using bone-in chicken bake 30-40 minutes).

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Eat with abandon!

(Original Tequila Lime Chicken is Ina Garten’s here. Original Crispy Onion Baked Chicken is from the Durkee crispy onion can label)

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REC: Piña Colada Cake*, I love this cake!

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From: Susan/Kentfield, Ca

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1 pkg (about 18 1/2 oz) yellow cake mix

1 pkg (4 serving size) instant vanilla flavor pudding

1 can (15 oz) cream of coconut

1/2 cup plus 2T light rum (plus more for sipping! I used Bacardi Gold for the cake and 10 yr old Pussers for moi)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple, well drained

(1 cup sweetened coconut, Heather’s addition!)

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Heat oven to 350º. Grease and flour a 10 in Bundt pan. Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, 1/2 cup cream of coconut, 1/2 cup rum, the oil and the eggs in a large bowl. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in pineapple (and coconut). Pour into prepared pan and bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes. Cool in the pan 10 minutes.

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Invert cake onto a cooling rack over a plate or tray. With a skewer, poke holes about 1 inch apart in cake, going almost to the bottom. Combine remaining cream of coconut and remaining rum. Spoon slowly over cake (I like my handy silicon basting brush that mOm gave me for Christmas). Repeat until most of the glaze has been absorbed. Chill thoroughly. Scrape remaining glaze off tray with a finger and eat surreptitiously in the kitchen. Mmm.

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Source: SF Examiner

* After tweeting about this cake on Twitter, it now has been renamed “Pina Colada Roofies Cake” (long story, tee hee)

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Note: if you able, please donate blood.  There is always a need for blood, especially in San Francisco, and especially in summertime.  Right now there are several patients in San Francisco hospitals that require frequent donations and, regardless of the location, blood banks need to replenish their supply.  Donating blood is easy, quick and painless.  And they give you snacks!  This is your excuse to eat peanut butter crackers and donuts with abandon!  If you haven’t donated in a while please think about giving your local center a call.  If you have never donated blood or don’t know your blood type, please make an appointment.  It is the best gift you can give your community and to yourself.  The Blood Centers of the Pacific are where I go, the RNs and staff are amazing and it truly is simple, easy and painless.

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