Blended Mushroom Meatball Sub

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A couple of weeks ago I shared some of the World Food Championship experience here. Today I want to share one of the recipes I prepared in the kitchen arena. This sandwich is a tribute to my home town of Kennett Square (AKA mushroom capital of the world) and my Italian roots. It’s a bit of a twist on a chicken parmigiana sandwich and filled with flavor thanks to Saucy Mama.

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Fontina Stuffed Chicken & Mushroom Meatball Sub with Crispy Cheese Frico

1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes

1 shallot, peeled, halved

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1-teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon sugar

parmesan cheese rind

4 ounces cremini mushrooms, very finely chopped

1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus additional for sautéing meatballs

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, ground

2 links Italian sausage, casings removed

2 tablespoons parmesan garlic marinade

½ cup day old Italian bread crumbs

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus ½ cup coarsely grated

1 egg

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

8 fresh basil leaves, chopped plus additional for garnish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, plus for garnish

12 (1/2-inch) pieces fontina cheese

Italian seeded or plain rolls, sliced through top and opened like a boat

Pour tomatoes and juice into a medium saucepan. With hand, crush each tomato. Add shallot, butter, salt ,sugar and cheese rind; bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare meatballs. Brown mushrooms in olive oil until they have released their liquid; cool slightly. Gently, but thoroughly, combine mushrooms, chicken, sausage, marinade, breadcrumbs, ¼ cup finely grated parmesan, egg, pepper, basil and parsley. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out 12 leveled portions of meat mixture. Dampen hands with water and form each portion into a meatball pressing one piece of fontina into the center wrapping the meat around the cheese. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sear meatballs to a golden brown, turning as needed. Add browned meatballs to sauce. Cover and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes or until fully cooked. Heat oven 350F. Crisp rolls on sheet pan in oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Prepare parmesan cheese frico. Pour a heaping tablespoon of Parmesan onto a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet and lightly pat down. Repeat with the remaining cheese, spacing the spoonfuls about a ½-inch apart. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Cool.

To assemble sandwiches: fill rolls with meatballs. Sprinkle with herbs and crumbled parmesan frico. 

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Thanks to my fabulous friends for the memories in Orange Beach

The Best Cranberries For All Seasons

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Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries is hosting a blogger challenge. I am thrilled to participate and bring this kind of quality product to my blog.  For more than 70 years the Rhodes family has been harvesting cranberries. Just open a bag of their cranberries and you will see nothing but bright red and fresh beautiful fruit. Available all year long, I have never seen cranberries like these before. They are like jewels and I just could not wait to create some recipes with them.

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Just last week I was eating the best cranberry lemon muffin I had ever tasted. It came at a premium price from a high-end coffee shop. It was so good I went back the next day and purchased another. I knew I needed to try and make these muffins at home and I did. Light and buttery these muffins are filled with cranberries and tart lemon curd. Husband approved these muffins are perfect for all those overnight holiday guests.

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Fresh Cranberry Lemon Muffins

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lemon extract

Zest of 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons milk

1 and 1/2 cups Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries (do not thaw)

1 jar lemon curd

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray a 12 count muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners that rise above the rim of the pan (like the tulip shaped liners in the photo). In large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In medium mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs; beat until well blended. Add yogurt, vanilla, lemon extract, zest, lemon juice and milk; blend well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in cranberries. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups filling to the top. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 20 to 24 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. With a melon baller tool scoop out the top center of the muffin. Fill with a small spoonful of lemon curd. Replace muffin tops.

Please note that if you use standard liners that just fit the size of your muffin tin that your yield will be up to 15 muffins and your bake time will be a few minutes less. [/recipe]

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While most of us use cranberries in baking have you thought about adding them to a main dish or entree? Tapping into my Sicilian roots I thought Cape Cod Select cranberries would be perfect in an agrodolce sauce recipe. Agrodolce translates to sweet & sour and these cranberries shine in a savory mix of onions, vinegar, apple cider, rosemary, ginger and brown sugar. Can you say dinner on the table this busy holiday season in 30 minutes? Yes, you can!

Festive Cranberry Agrodolce Chicken

4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs*

1-teaspoon kosher salt

½-teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

1/8 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes

1 small to medium onion, chopped

1 cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups apple cider or juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus additional for garnish

1 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar

cooked spaghetti squash; optional

Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add chicken; cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. To same skillet, stir in ginger, pepper flakes, onion and cranberries; cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add butter, apple cider or juice, red wine vinegar and rosemary; stir well and bring to a boil. Gently boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half. Stir in brown sugar. Return chicken and any accumulated juice to pan. Cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and tender. To serve: spoon cooked spaghetti squash over center of plate. Top with chicken and sauce. Garnish with fresh rosemary. Serves 4.

*We love chicken thighs in our house, but feel free to substitute boneless chicken breast if that is what you prefer. Just leave the chicken skin intact to avoid overcooked chicken.

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How about that gorgeous drink featured in my first photo? Greet your guests at the door with my Holiday Cranberry Pear Rosemary Spritzer and they may never leave. It’s your fault that you are treating your friends and family to the best of the best.

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Cranberry Pear Rosemary Spritzer

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup pear brandy

¼ cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

1 sprig fresh rosemary plus additional for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½ cup (4 ounces) good quality vodka

1 cup (8 ounces) cold prosecco or cranberry flavored seltzer

In small saucepan, over medium heat, swirl sugar, pear brandy, cranberries and rosemary until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes just to a boil. Let mixture steep and cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove and reserve cranberries. Remove and discard rosemary sprig. In a shaker filled with ice, combine cranberry pear syrup, lime juice and vodka; shake well. Pour over 4 ice filled glasses. Top each with ¼ cup (2 ounces) prosecco or cranberry flavored seltzer. For glass garnish: skewer reserved cranberries onto fresh rosemary sprigs and drape on top of glass.

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Thanks Cape Cod Select for sponsoring this recipe contest and sharing your delicious cranberries with me and my readers. For more fresh recipes, fabulous photos and how to purchase check out the following links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/capecodselect/#

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CapeCodSelect

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/capecodselect/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/capecodselec

For the store locater link: http://www.capecodselect.com/store-locator/

 

What’s Meant To Be

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I thought I came to Orange Beach, Alabama to represent my sponsor, Saucy Mama, in the World Food Championships. Leading up to the competition I struggled with my recipes trying to fit them into the parameters of the contest and I actually had a feeling of dread. My goal was to present my flavors, cook to the best of my ability and hopefully make Saucy Mama proud. The pressure was on like a panini in a sandwich press.

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Cuban Fusion

Saucy Mama is a family owned company that prides itself on supporting home cooks. They love nothing more than gathering folks around a table to enjoy good food. While I did not bring them into the winner’s circle I sure felt loved. It was obvious that they were proud of what I had brought to the table. I accomplished my cooking goals and truly had the most wonderful time amongst many friends and my Saucy Mama family.

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Fontina Stuffed Chicken and Mushroom Meatball with Parmesan Frico

However, I am writing this morning because I have another story to tell. It’s not about cooking. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about a chance meeting. It’s about a simple glance through a restaurant window and how that moment changes your life. It’s a story of a young Navy Corpsman who reached out because he thought he might have recognized, Will’s mom. A story about why I was meant to compete in Orange Beach.

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Meet Brandon. Brandon and William became brothers while stationed in San Diego. He caught a glimpse of me through a window as I passed by a restaurant he just happened to be working in. The following morning I wake up to a FB message:

Brandon: Mrs. Keys are you in Orange Beach

Me: Yes. I am cooking at The Wharf. Sandwich competition

Brandon: I saw you last night. I was bartending at the boat bar and I told myself that  couldn’t be you and then I saw FB.

Me: You are giving me the chills

Brandon: I’m upset I did not say something last night. Do you have any plans for breakfast?

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Brandon helped Will land this shark

Meeting Brandon is the highlight of my time in Orange Beach. He loves my son and shares many “Will” stories I haven’t heard before. We laugh and we cry. He insists on driving me to the airport tomorrow at 3:30 in the morning. He’s Will’s brother taking care of Will’s mom. The love is immense. This is my prize. This is the catch of the day. This is why I am meant to be at the World Food Championships. A chance meeting, a mutual love and a reminder my dear boy will never be forgotten. Once in awhile I need that.

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