Warm and Cozy Fall Dinners

The cooler weather is bringing out my urge to cook more comfort foods. When it’s damp, rainy and cold outside, like it happens to be today, a salad just isn’t going to cut it! I’m sharing with you two of a very long list of dinners that bring me comfort.  Neither take too long to cook, so both would be great for a mid week meal as well as for the weekend.
Boneless Pork Chops in a Creamy Mustard Thyme Sauce with Mushrooms and Caramelized Shallots.
Sound fancy or complicated?  It’s really not, providing you have some caramelized shallots or onions done ahead of time.

Season your chops with salt and pepper then brown them in a drizzle of olive oil.*** Remove chops, do the same with the mushrooms, then set aside as well.*** De glaze your pan with chicken stock enough to cover the bottom and let it bubble.*** Add two heaping tablespoons of grainy mustard, some fresh thyme and a cup or so of cream or half and half, whisking until smooth.*** Place the chops back in along with the mushrooms and simmer until meat is cooked through.*** Garnish with the caramelized shallots.
You’ll need to have something green on the side so, how about a little broccoli rabe? It goes very well with both the pork and the chicken. Here’s how I make it.
And speaking of chicken, I love making this Ricotta Stuffed Chicken. You’ll need a butterflied chicken, which means you need to remove the rib, back and breast bone of your chicken then flatten it out like a butterfly. I’ve tried to do it myself but it’s never a pretty site so I just let my butcher at Whole Foods do it for me, it takes him 2 seconds and it comes out perfect every time!
Gently loosen the skin all around the chicken with your fingers, be careful not to rip into it.

Saute in a small pan, 3 chopped green onions and 1 minced garlic clove.*** After it cools, place into a bowl along with 2 cups of drained ricotta cheese,*** 1/2 cup of chopped sun dried tomatoes in oil,***1/2 cup of grated romano cheese,*** the zest of 1 lemon,*** chopped fresh basil and parsley,*** salt and pepper. Mix it all together.
Take a spoon and shove the mixture all over underneath the skin that you loosened. Rub the outside of your chicken with olive oil and fresh herbs and roast in a 375 degree oven until internal temperature reaches 180.Get your sweater on and start cooking!



Ricotta and Herb Stuffed Chicken, Grilled Veggie Couscous, and a Fresh Salad from my Garden

With the long weekend ahead of us and the Fourth of July right around the corner you might consider this as one of your meals, Ricotta and Herb Stuffed Chicken. Placing an herby, cheesy and citrusy mixture of creamy ricotta underneath the skin turns a simple chicken into something quite amazing!

I get all my chicken from Whole Foods, I know where they come from and I love how clean and fresh they look and the friendly butcher behind the counter is always happy to do anything I ask so I don’t even have to get my hands messy! Lately every chicken I buy I’ve been asking him to cut the back out for me, better known as spatchcocked or butterflied. I just love how even and fast it cooks up being cut that way.

For this particular recipe you’re going to be loosening the skin all around which will make it easier for you to place your ricotta mixture underneath. Just wiggle your fingers carefully under the skin along the top and bottom of the breast, thighs and tops of the legs.

For the ricotta filling mix up 1lb of ricotta with fresh herbs of your choice, I used basil and parsley along with grated parmesan or romano cheese, salt, pepper, lemon zest and chopped sundried tomatoes. In a small pan, saute 1 clove of minced garlic and either sliced green onions or the lighter part of a leek, when soft, toss and stir into the ricotta mixture.
Lift up the skin and stuff your bird wiggling the ricotta mixture down to cover all areas. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil on top. Roast in a 450F oven for 30 minutes with tin foil over the breast part, then remove foil and turn oven down to 400F and continue cooking until internal temperature reaches 180F. Let it rest before cutting into it. (You could grill this but make sure you don’t lose your ricotta mixture.)

While the chicken is cooking in the oven you can be outside grilling up some vegetables for this delicious side dish of Grilled Vegetable Couscous, better yet get it done earlier in the day so you can be sipping your favorite drink instead!

Cook your couscous according to the package, I like the large Israeli couscous, toast it first in olive oil then add water, it’s usually equal amounts. I had 1 1/3 cups of couscous and the same amount of water. When it cools down to room temperature add your grilled veggies, I used red, yellow, orange and green peppers, Vadalia onions, portobello mushrooms and fresh corn. Add lots of chopped basil, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

I’m excited to share my first romaine salad of the year that my green thumb husband grew for us, he has it growing in pots as well as in the ground.

He won’t let me cut the leaves off for fear I might destroy the plant, he’s very particular. Look how proud he is!

The leaves were so tender and fresh even the core was delicious, simply dressed with my very best olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and light shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano, simply the best!

Have a great weekend and Buon Appetito!