Magical Mystery Sauce

You know how sometimes 1+1 = 4? Yes? Sometimes the combination of two recipes is way better than the original individual ones. That’s when a recipe is a keeper.

I was planning to invite family friends over for Easter. Normally we spend Easter together in their garden, hiding Easter gifts for each other, with the kiddos running around and a cookout if the weather permits. Well, most people weren’t in town, mostly because they were on vacation in Asia, so we were trying to come up with an alternate plan. I was hoping to invite the remaining contingent over for Easter Sunday or Monday, but if I’m preparing new to me recipes then I really want to try them out. My plan was to make something with chicken so I was browsing through Epicurious, looking for recipes that sounded interesting.

I found a very interesting recipe for chicken with radicchio and fennel mustard butter. Hmm. I didn’t have any radicchio, but I had sweet potatoes. Now, I am on a mission to make good sweet potato fries. I’ve tried various versions, and I haven’t been happy with any of them. Saint Ex in DC used to make these awesome sweet potato fries – my goal was to reach that standard. Btw, Saint Ex ended up with a new cook, so the sweet potato fries are permanently off the table. Boo.

I could share my sweet potato fries adventures with you but this post is about chicken. (Bock bock bock bogoooooock – just for you, V!). Let’s return to the chicken with fennel mustard butter. The fennel mustard butter sounded interesting. I have a French mustard with herbs, which, thanks to the herbs is green. That, plus butter and fennel made a for a really pretty, very green, and very tasty fennel mustard butter.

On to the chicken part of the menu. Chicken marinated in olive oil and lemon juice. But I was feeling more adventurous. And then I remembered this magic sauce recipe from 101 cookbooks. I’d made this magic sauce before, and used it in a version of aglio e oglio, or with buffalo burgers. I brushed it both on the burgers and on the toasted rolls. De-licious.

magic sauce in the making – note the fennel mustard butter in the background

Now, I could make the Italianesque version of the magic sauce as in the recipe. Or I could tinker with it. Guess which option I chose. Yeah. I decided to make an Indianized version, and substitute ingredients. Here’s my magic sauce a la India:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp roasted fennel, ground into a powder
1 1/2 tsp roasted cumin, ground into a powder
2 large garlic cloves, smashed into a paste
1 bay leaf, well crumbled
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I ground the herbs in a mortar but you can just chop them)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

lamb knuckles in a Römertopf (clay pot)

I used the entire sauce, plus some extra olive oil, lemon juice and salt and marinated the chicken breasts in the sauce in a ziploc and everything was good. And then the plans were turned upside down. The menu was revised to lamb knuckles, marinated provencal style with lots of caramelized red onions, steamed potatoes and salad with spring herbs fresh from our friends’ garden. Oh and some of that fennel mustard butter. This isn’t the best picture, but you get the idea.

The marinated chicken had to stay in the fridge an extra day. This is the first time I marinated chicken more than 24 hours. I wasn’t sure if it would be ok, but some googling showed that it should be ok. Since there was acid in the dressing, I was hoping that the chicken wouldn’t be tough. But au contraire. The extra marinade time had made the chicken delicious. I used a cast iron pan and fried the chicken in butter, 4 minutes on each side, letting them brown nicely, and then I finished it in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, for 10 minutes. The marinade was added to the pan and made for awesome pan drippings. I ate some of the remaining drippings with bread – so good.

I don’t think I can convey in words how juicy and tasty the chicken was. Chicken breasts tend to dry out, but this, this was great. The chicken breasts weren’t to thin so they wouldn’t have dried out quickly, but the marinade made the dish. It outshone the sweet potato fries by leaps and bounds. Since that dish was so awesome, I remade it for Mom. First I thought I’d make a quick salsa and then some beans, probably beans almondine. Easy peasy, right? But then I made that pomegranate black bean feta mandarin and mint salad. This time I once again marinated the chicken for two days – why mess with a good thing. I urge you to go out and make your own. Really. You won’t regret it.

As you might have guessed, the post title is inspired by the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour

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Melon salad

I love watermelon, but I’m not really a fan of honeydew or other melon sorts. But I had a honeydew melon on hand, and wanted to eat a salad. So guess what I found: a NYTimes recipe for a melon salad with a honeydew dressing. I once again improvised since I didn’t have any prosciutto or fennel, but I did have frisee lettuce. I used sliced almonds instead of hazelnuts. The dressing is basically pureed honeydew melon with oil and lime. I also added a bit of my pickled spring onions, and that was an excellent addition to the salad. This would also be an excellent fall salad. (Btw, do you want me to put up the bread recipe?)

Homemade bread, and melon salad. The perfect meal.

I had plenty of dressing left over, so I used it for the next days salad, where I added oranges, a yellow bell pepper and walnuts with the remainder of the frisee lettuce. Yum.

Today I’m linking up with Ginger Snap Crafts for her Wow Me Wednesday.

Peanuts are not my friends

I so want to make this cabbage and lime salad – it looks like the perfect summer dish. Everyone else doesn’t seem to excited by the idea of a cabbage salad, but that just means that there’s more for me. Yay! Tangy and crunchy, what more could I want in a salad? Oops, the salad also includes peanuts. That’s a bit of a problem. You see, I don’t like peanuts. We’ve just never gotten along. I don’t like peanuts in all their incarnations – not raw, not cooked, not raw and salted, not as peanut butter, brittle or in M&Ms, and definitely not in cake. No Peanut butter just makes my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. And I’d rather eat Nutella, thank you very much. Hazelnuts and chocolate, what could be better?

I imagine that some almond slices would be a good substitute. Or some chopped up hazelnuts?

Burgundy dress

I’d mentioned that I’d knit this dress for my goddaughter, Leah. I ultimately frogged the dress and reknit the yarn in a different design for her as a birthday present, but I’ll still put up a post of this past project as a past project post (hello alliteration!). It was my birthday gift to Leah for her second birthday, and I knit it in the 2-3 year old size, figuring that she’d get more use out of it that way. And if the dress was going to be too short on her after a while then she could always wear it as a short dress/long top with leggings or tights.

burgundy dress

the color is gorgeous

The pattern is Child’s Sun Top, a Lion Brand’s free pattern. The pattern called for a worsted cotton or cotton blend yarn so I used Knitpicks Shine Worsted, a cotton-rayon blend. The pattern requires the dress to be knit flat, and to be seamed later. I’m not a huge fan of seaming to I decided to knit the dress in the round instead, and to simply separate the two parts at the armholes. Then I’d just knit the top of the part separately in seed stitch as per pattern instructions. The original dress is bell-shaped, a form that I don’t like very much, so I cast on extra stitches, and I used paired decreases ever so often to try and get the dress into more of an A-line shape (it didn’t quite work).

burgundy dress in a bell shape

yeah, more of a bell shape than an A-line dress

The finished dress was cute and all, but the straps were rather stretchy, even though I’d used a cotton blend yarn. Still, I was hoping that it would hold the shape well enough, and I’d extended the straps so the length of the dress could be varied. I had the cutest little apple buttons that matched the main burgundy color of the dress perfectly. But as you now know, the straps weren’t strong enough to hold the weight of the dress without stretching a lot. I guess I could have lined the dress to make it more stable, but without a sowing machine I felt very intimidated by the idea of sewing on a lining by hand. Instead the dress was frogged, and I settled for a design that’s knit top down so the weight of the top wouldn’t depend on two narrow straps.

burgundy up cloe

the buttons match perfectly

My Ravelry project page has more details on the modifications, if you’re interested. Btw, I found the yarn rather fuzzy, something that I really didn’t expect from a cotton blend yarn. Have any of you had the same problem?