Spring Holidays I

Although the weather outside is frightful – not at all springlike, times for family and friends to gather are numerous in the spring.  St. Patrick’s Day is probably one of the easier holidays to host since it is a one pot meal, granted one giant pot.  I must admit corn beef is not one of my more favorite cuts of meat but I can handle it once a year.  My in laws used to cook a smoked shoulder which was more to my liking. We put two corn beef briskets on to boil and then simmer around 1:30 on St. Patty’s day.  Friends were coming at six so we peeled and cut up the carrots, potatoes, parsnips, and turnip. We removed the meat and covered it foil and set aside.  Into the same water we added the cut up veggies and the quartered cabbage and set them to boil and simmer as well. In the mean time I set the table and got out the vinegar and mustard which are the usual condiments of choice.

When the veggies are fork tender we removed them onto large serving dishes with a slotted spoon and put the meat back in to heat back up for a few minutes. The meat should be sliced with the grain on the bias in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices as desired. It is easiest to set up a buffet so everyone can select what they want.  Clean up is a breeze with the one large pot and a few serving dishes – more time for socializing and watching a little March Madness!

Next time I’ll talk about Easter and Mother’s Day and then summer will be just around the corner!
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Chicken Marbella

It has been a while since I last blogged but wintertime seems to bring about numerous occasions to entertain in our home where a fire is always burning in the fireplace.  We were to go to a restaurant with three other couples but decided a restaurant can be noisy, crowded and not conducive to sitting and talking when the meal was done so we had everyone to our house.  One of the best crowd pleasing recipes as well as easy is Chicken Marbella. I purchase huge half breasts(the recipe calls for quartered chicken) at our local butcher market and use a two gallon zip lock bag for the marinade.  I usually do this at least a day ahead and remember to turn and redistribute the bagged chicken occassionally, bringing it out of the refrigerator at least an hour before we eat.  I do this because the oils tend to congeal and I like the chicken to be at room temperature before I put it in the oven.  When ready, I just dump the chicken and marinade in a large roasting pan making sure the breasts are in a single layer.  On top I pour the white wine and sprinkle the brown sugar over the breasts and pop it in the preheated oven.  I purchased some small meat thermometers (one for beef and one for chicken) and insert it into the thick part of the breasts towards the end of the cooking time to check for doneness.

I had planned on oven browned fingerling potatoes which is still my first choice but realized really late that I had left them at the store (if you can imagine). Luckily, I had some large baking potatoes that I quickly baked in the microwave.  When done, I sliced them in half lengthwise, scooped out the potato into a bowl (be sure to keep the empty peels)and mashed them adding, butter, sour cream, bacon bits and cheese. I spooned the potato mixture back into the peels and set them on a cookie sheet until I was ready to put them into the oven to rewarm and broil the tops.

 My friends brought the appetizers and a big salad.  The meal was capped off by the best key lime pie ever.  This recipe I got from the restaurant where I first tasted it.  It is fantastic.  I’ve attached the recipes for the chicken and the pie.  If I had been smart I would have taken pictures – the meal was definitely picture worthy!

Chicken Marbella                                                                        

(For 8 large 1/2 breast I increased the marinade
recipe by 1 1/2)

4 quartered chickens (2 1/2 lbs)
1 head of garlic, peeled and pureed
1/4 dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley finely chopped

In a 2 gallon zip lock combine the chicken with the first 9 ingredients above. Let marinate, refrigerate over
night. Into large baking pan, arrange chicken in single layer.  Sprinkle brown sugar over all the chicken and pour white wine around the chicken. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when piercing the breast with a fork releases clear juices. Transfer chicken to serving dish, spoon juices, prunes and olives. Sprinkle with parsley. Pass remaining juices in a gravy boat.

Key Lime Bistro’s 2-layer Key Lime Pie
3/4 cup granola (no dried fruit)
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
3 tbs sugar
BAKED LAYER:
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
(I use the lo fat sweetened cond. milk)
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice or lime juice
3 large egg yolks
CHILLED LAYER
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese @room temp
1/2 cup sweetened cond. milk
1/4 cup fresh key lime or lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Whipped Cream

Crust: Preheat oven to 350 F. Pulse the granola in a food processor, mix Preheat oven to 350 F. Pour ingredients from bag graham cracker crumbs, add melted butter and sugar. Press crumb mixture into pam sprayed pie plate up sides and on bottom. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 300 and remove crust to cool completely.  Layer 1: Whisk condensed milk, lime juiceand egg yolks in medium bowl to blend.  Pour into pie crust. Bake until custard is set, about 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Layer 2 Using an electric miser, beat cream cheese, condensed milk, lime juice,sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Pour over cooked baked layer smooth top. Cover and chill until firm – at least 4 hours. Garnish with whipped cream.