Grilled Chicken Italiano

June 30, 2015 Entrees, Menu No Comments

Growing up in South Philadelphia, I have enjoyed more than my share of delicious and delectable sandwiches. While cheesesteaks, hoagies and roast pork sandwiches rank among highest on most Philadelphians’ lists, my all time favorite ‘sang-weech’ is the classic Chicken Italiano. Seasoned chicken breast, broccoli rabe, prosciutto and provolone packed in a crispy Italian roll…what is there not to love? Now I do realize that there are different variations of a Chicken Italiano, using other ingredients such as peppers, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes. But the prosciutto, provolone and rabe combination is the version that I fell in love with. For this post, I would like to share with you my grilled version of this amazing combination….a perfect dish for any summer cook-out!

This grilled version does differ just a bit from the classic sandwich. First, while broccoli rabe is one of my all-time favorite greens, I decided instead to use a home made basil-mint pesto. My garden is overloaded with fresh basil and mint, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to put both to good use. Of course, you can stick with the traditional broccoli rabe if you prefer. I also like to prepare and serve the chicken breasts whole. You can cut the chicken breasts into smaller pieces to serve in a sandwich if you like, but I find that cooking and serving the chicken breasts whole allows for prosciutto, provolone and pesto (or rabe) to melt evenly on top.

You’ll want to marinate the chicken breasts for a good two to four hours before grilling. You can find a good, basic lemon and garlic marinade by clicking here. You can also used a bottled marinade of your choice, but I would stick to a basic garlic, lemon or white wine flavored marinade. There are too many good tastes happening with this dish, so you don’t want to overpower the chicken with an strong-flavored marinade.

Grilled Chicken Italiano

4-6 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
4-6 slices prosciutto
4-6 slices provolone cheese
*Basic lemon-garlic marinade (see recipe below) or 1 bottle marinade (any combination of garlic, lemon and white wine will work)
**Fresh basil-mint pesto (see recipe below)

Pierce chicken breasts with a fork to allow marinade to soak in. Place chicken breasts in a plastic bag, pour marinade into bag, making sure that all of the chicken breasts are well coated. Refrigerate for two to four hours.

Pre-heat your grill to high. Make sure that your grill grates are brushed with oil to avoid sticking. Reduce heat to medium-high, and place the chicken on the grill, discarding the bag with the used marinade. Keep lid closed. Turn chicken occasionally, until browned and done. Top the chicken breasts with a dollop of the pesto, a slice of provolone and a slice of prosciutto. Allow to heat for another few minutes until the cheese starts to melt and the prosciutto starts to slightly crisp. Remove from grill, serve and enjoy!

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*Lemon-Garlic Marinade
Adapted from food.com

2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh preferred
1⁄8 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients together to pour over chicken.

Note – this recipe’s measurements are for 1-1.5 lbs of chicken breasts. You may need to increase the ingredients for the amount of chicken breasts that you are making.

**Fresh Basil-Mint Pesto
Adapted from simplyrecipes.com

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1 cup fresh mint leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the basil and mint with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Use immediately, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to a week.
Makes 1 cup.

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Cooking with Beer: Berry Weiss Rib Marinade

June 18, 2015 Entrees, Menu No Comments

When purchasing a mixed case of beer, chances are that you will end up with a few bottles of a particular style that you may not find to be on your ‘favorites’ list. While giving away these unwanted bottles is always an easy option, I prefer to put them to a good alternative use…cooking with them! Heavier dark beers, such as porters, stouts and brown ales are good for winter time stews, soups and chili. Since we are currently in the summer season, which is highlighted by light beers and shandies, a good way to put these unfavorable bottles to use is by using them in a marinade.

Such was the case for me this past weekend, when I had a few extra bottles of a berry-flavored weissbier (a German-style white beer, also known as a wheat beer) on hand. I’m not a huge fan of fruity beers to begin with, and while I didn’t find this beer to be a total disappointment, it was still a bit too sweet and fruity for my preference. I did enjoy it a bit more with a meal than on its own, which made me think that it would be a good beer to use as a marinade. I immediately thought of using the marinade with ribs. I’ve used apple cider vinegar and cherry juice for other rib marinades, so I know that this would be a good use for the beer.

I found a basic beer marinade recipe and made a few adjustments to help better season the berry taste (adding some molasses for a slight sweetness and to add some body to the marinade, and some thyme, which is my favorite herb to use on ribs). I decided to use boneless country spare ribs for this recipe. I like the meatiness of country spare ribs and just find it easier to serve. My youngest daughter Ava also likes this style of pork ribs, so I knew that she would enjoy the dish as well. No worries, the alcohol does cook off when grilling! Any particular style of ribs would work well with this marinade.

After letting the ribs sit in the marinade fora good 6 hours, they were plenty tenderized and absorbed a good amount of the marinade flavoring. I cooked them on low-indirect heat for a good 45 minutes, brushing them with some reserved marinade. When fully cooked, the ribs had a beautiful, slightly sweet glaze on them. Just enough to give the perfect flavor without being too thick and saucy.

If you’re not a fan of ribs, you can also use this marinade on chicken. Just brush it on as you would with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Berry Weiss Rib Marinade

1 12-oz bottle Leinenkugel Berry Weiss Beer*
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3⁄4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tbspn dried thyme

1-2 lb boneless country spare ribs (5-10 pieces). You can use your favorite rack of ribs as well.**

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Set aside a little less than 1/4 of the mixture for basting. Pierce rib meat with a fork to allow marinade to penetrate and tenderize the meat. Place remaining marinade in a plastic baggie with the ribs. Make sure that all of the meat is evenly covered. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to 12 hours, flipping the bag occasionally.

Remove ribs from bag, discard used marinade. If you are using boneless country spare ribs, they may separate at this time, which again will make for easier cooking.

Pre-heat your grill on it’s highest setting. Once the grill is hot, set up an area where you can cook the ribs indirectly, meaning that they will not be sitting directly over heat. My grill is a three burner, so I turn my middle burner to the lowest setting and keep the two side burners at medium. I sit the meat over the middle burner, and try to keep the temperature at no higher than 350˚. Turn the ribs occasionally to allow even heating, brushing with the reserved marinade every time you turn them. Be sure to keep the lid closed otherwise. Cook until the meat reaches an internal temperature of at least 145˚. Remove from heat, let sit for about 3-5 minutes before serving. Crack open one of your favorite beers and enjoy!

*Although it was my choice, you do not have to use berry weiss beer for this marinade. Any medium-bodied beer will work well. A light beer may not give much flavor, and a heavy-bodied beer may taste too smokey.

** This marinade would also work well with chicken!

 

The ribs are placed in the middle of the grill over extremely low heat. The burner on both sides of the ribs are turned up to medium, to allow indirect heating.

The ribs are placed in the middle of the grill over extremely low heat. The burner on both sides of the ribs are turned up to medium, to allow indirect heating.

 

Be sure to brush the ribs with reserved marinade when turning the ribs, to allow for a nice and even coating.

Be sure to brush the ribs often with reserved marinade, to allow for a nice and even coating.

 

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Let cool for a few minutes after removing from the grill. Enjoy!

 

 

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Not Your Father’s Root Beer!

June 5, 2015 Dessert, Menu No Comments

As a person who enjoys a good beer, I always look forward to seeing what new brews are being offered each season. Now that we’re heading into the summer months, the light and crispy, citrusy and shandy-like beers will no doubt be the forerunners. But there also appears to be a new game in town…and it is not your father’s game. Or should I say it is Not Your Father’s Root Beer!

Classified as an herb/spiced beer, this 5.9% beverage from Small Town Brewery will no doubt be holding its own at many summer grill outs and get togethers this season. I first came across this brew at a family grill-out a few weeks back. My sister-in-law, who let me have a sip of hers, already declared it her most favorite beer ever. Just a few days later, the local Wegman’s was loaded with pallets of the brew, and a big crowd gathered around it, offering nothing but high praise. If you were to let your sense of taste and smell lead the way, you would swear that you were drinking root beer, and a tasty root beer at that. Aside from a slight bite at the finish, there is really not much of an alcohol taste to this brew at all. And that could be very dangerous for a beverage containing almost 6% alcohol (your average light beer usually has about 4.5% alcohol). If you’re really serious about getting a buzz, there is also a 10% version on the market. However, I don’t find it necessary to go with the high octane version for this particular brew. float

Before the craze gets too out of control over this brew, I figured I would offer up my simple suggestion on how to enjoy it even more, especially on a warm summer’s night. And all you need is soda glass or beer mug and a few scoops of vanilla ice cream. BOOM! Not Your Father’s Root Beer Float. By the time you read this post, chances are that you would have come across a similar recipe already shared via social media, because the NYFRB craze is quickly kicking in. However you decide to enjoy it, be sure to do so responsibly. Cheers to a happy summer!!!

 

 

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