Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chicken and Leek Stew, the great de-stressor

There has not been a whole lot of cooking happening in this house lately. As the semester wears on that's pretty normal, but I had a 30 page rough draft due yesterday for a paper I've been working on throughout the semester and I needed to take it easy. We've had a super chilly, stormy couple of days and this sounded like the perfect comfort food. I've made this stew a couple of times and it is, without fail, delicious. It's thick and creamy, which makes it hard to believe that it's fairly healthy. This is also the first time I've used leeks, and I have definitely been missing out. They're a mild onion, kind of like a huge scallion. If you want that instant 'yum' smell in your kitchen, saute some leeks in olive oil - delicious. This recipe is courtesy of Jamie Oliver. I followed all of the directions, though I used fat free sour cream. Oh, and I added garlic. You could make it without, but why would you ever make anything without garlic?

Jamie Oliver's 'Simplest Chicken and Leek Stew'


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts (discard any discolored ends)
1 pkg. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch pieces
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 and 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 tbsp. chopped thyme
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Aren't the leeks gorgeous!?


1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender, about 4 minutes. Scrape the leeks and mushrooms onto a plate.
2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour, shaking off any excess. heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add the chicken and cook over moderate to high heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add the chicken stock and thyme and simmer over moderate heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about one minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the plate with the vegetables.
3 Simmer the stock over moderately high heat until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken, leeks and mushrooms to the skillet and simmer over low heat until warmed through, about 1 minute.
4. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream with the mustard and stir into the stew. Remove the skillet from the heat. Season the stew with salt and pepper and serve.

Serve with: Steamed rice (I used brown).

Savannah-rama, Part 3

Ok, apparently blogger just cannot contain all the photos I want to post. This is nice though, I'm getting to reminisce about my vacation and forget about all the stressful things I'm currently working on. Savannah really was gorgeous though. The trees and flowers there are pretty much the same thing you see in Tallahassee, but we definitely lack the old-Timey charm. We probably bull dozed down all of the old houses to make way for our heinous, phallic capital building.

This old synagogue is the student center for the
Savannah College of Art and Design. They own a
bunch of gorgeous buildings around town and I'm super
jealous that they get to hang out in gorgeous buildings like this.

Savannah has a really active port and we saw this
cargo freighter, it's huge! Suddenly I understand why
customs doesn't quite make it through everything shipped into this country.


The buildings on River Street.

Cool or creepy? Savannah-Rama, Part 2

There were so many gorgeous things to see in Savannah, there's no way I could limit my pictures to one post! One of the more offbeat things we did was walk around the Bonaventure Cemetery, which was featured in the book an film "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." I'll admit, I didn't check out the movie until after our trip to Savannah, but it definitely captures a lot of things about the city. The cemetery overlooks a gorgeous river and is full of amazing spanish moss laden trees and gorgeous tombstones. I know some people get weirded out by cemeteries, but I'm definitely not one of them. I actually lived behind a funeral home for quite a few years, so it takes a lot to creep me out. I'm not too partial to the idea of being buried myself, but cemeteries are kind of nice - they're full of tokens showing the great love people have for one another. Is that weird?
So, readers - cemeteries: cool or creepy?

The fountain at Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hey Ya'll: Savannah-rama, Part 1

Last week was our Spring Break. Ahhh, Spring Break - it's going to be sorely missed when I finally wrap up my seven year stint in college. It won't be missed as much as winter break or summer break, but it will be missed nonetheless. School has been pretty hectic this semester, hence the lack of blog posts. The break was much needed and is already sorely missed. We spent four days in Savannah, Georgia enjoying quality time, sleeping in, gorgeous scenery and good food. It's about a five hour drive from here, so it was the perfect getaway for a few days. I initially wanted to go to New Orleans, but when I got around to my last minute planning I realized that out break coincided with Mardi Gras. Don't get me wrong, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is definitely something that's on the bucket list; however, it's also something that requires more than three days planning ahead.
Savannah is such a beautiful old city. The homes are absolutely beautiful and you just get such a great sense of the history while you explore it. The charm is also nicely augmented by liberal drinking laws - you're allowed to have open containers of alcohol in the historic district as long as they're in a clear plastic cup. Bartenders will ask, "For here, or to go?" when you order a drink, which I must admit is pretty awesome. This, paired with the fact that Georgia gets New Belgium beer made exploring on foot that much more fun. It felt a little strange, but Leon and I both enjoyed walking in front of the gorgeous City Hall en route to River Street while sipping on beer in our to go cups.
We got a good dose of southern hospitality from most everyone we met. Parts of Forrest Gump were filmed in Savannah, including Forrest's narration from the bench while waiting for the bus. The bench itself was put there for the film production and has been moved to a museum though, which makes it much less cool. I would definitely put in a stunt bench for the tourists if I has a say, but I don't. Savannah is also supposed to be super haunted and they have a lot of ghost and graveyard tours, but I just can't really buy into that stuff. I anticipate another post or two with pictures as this one is already a bit out of hand. What are some of your favorite vacation spots?

The Davenpot House, one of the first buildings in Savannah
to be preserved for its historic value. We actually got to go inside,
but I'm sad to say that it was a bit disappointing.
It was a bit chilly during our stay, but Spring was clearly
nudging its way in.
One of the many gorgeous Bed and Breakfasts in the historic district.
I would love to return to Savannah when my budget is a little
higher and stay somewhere like this.
I sure do love flowering trees.
This city really does have a level of charm that I haven't
really seen before. Many of the historic
homes had cute gutters like this one.
How's that for a backyard?
One of the ghost tours runs in this hearse. Tour-goers stand up
in the back while learning about Savannah's spooky stories.
"The Waving Girl," a statue in Savannah on the river front.
Supposedly a girl would stand there every day and
wave to greet the ships coming into port. There is some legend that
she was there every day for 40 years, waiting for her love who
has been lost at sea to return.
The old cobblestone streets by the port.
Cute, but difficult to balance on.
Every home really did seem more beautiful than the last.

The spot where Forrest waited on the bench and
told his life story.
The people of Savannah sure do love Forrest Gump.
The guide on our trolly tour was even an extra, but his scene got cut.
Gorgeous trees, as one would expect.
Forrest Gump isn't the only shrimp loving southerner who is
well known in Savannah. Paula Deen's restaurant The Lady and Sons
is also located there in the historic district, along with The Paula Deen Store,
specializing in all things Paula. I love to laugh at Paula's southern drawl and
love of butter on Food Network. I don't generally cook the types of things
that she does, but we couldn't pass up some of Paula's home cookin'.
"Hey ya'll" is the catch phrase on her sign. Hilarious.
The restaurant is a pretty large, three story place in
historic Savannah. You have to go make reservations
ahead of time and they were totally filled up every day we were in town.
Above is the garlic chive biscuit and "hoecake" that comes with
your meal. Paula Deen is such a naughty genius - they tell you
that the hoecake is great plain, but also prove maple syrup on the
table and urge you to have it that way. Pancakes with dinner -
perhaps not something for everyday, but Paula is a genius.
We both opted for the buffet so that we could sample
all the good southern fare that The Lady and Sons offers. This was
definitely the best buffet food I've ever had - nothing dry or flavorless
the way that buffet food generally is. The collard greens were amazing and
I even loved the creamed corn - which I thought was grits. I never
would have tried it if I knew what it was, but I'll hand it to Paula - she turns out
great food and I'm still working on detoxing from the trip.

Paula's restaurant has to make a crazy amount of money, but it still has that locally owned, down home feel. There are family pictures of the Deens by the elevators and I was particularly ticked when I spotted one of Paula kissing one of her sons on his mouth at his wedding. On the ride up to our table on the third floor Leon entertained the other diners by musing about whether they kept Paula in the basement. All in all, it was a delicious, very diet unfriendly gastronomic adventure.