Thursday, November 30, 2006

Once Upon a Dream Dinner

It's always nice when someone else cooks. It's a treat to sit down at the table and taste something where your hand and your tastebuds weren't involved. This time it was even more interesting because I first heard about this dish first thing the other morning. It turns out that my Sweetie had a dream that he made this exact chicken dish for dinner. Once he described it to me, I knew it would be delicious. And it was.
The main ingredients are boneless, skinless chicken breasts, onions, mushrooms, spinach and teeny tiny pasta. He used chicken broth for the liquid and put some Parmesan cheese on top of the chicken, too. The perfect warm meal for an evening where the temperature is dropping down toward freezing. We've been warned to wrap our pipes and protect tender plants. The same cold front that has been dumping snow on my daughter in Seattle is bringing us Arctic cold.

In the photo below Sweetie pours the tiny pasta stars into the spinach broth mixture.

Once Upon a Dream Chicken
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
3 whole chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, about 1 1/2 lbs.
1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach, thawed (or use a 10 oz. package)
1 can (about 2 cups) chicken broth
2/3 cups pastina (very small pasta)
1-2 oz. Parmesan cheese in thin slices or long shards

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and saute' until onion is translucent and mushrooms are golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve for later.
In the same pan brown the chicken breasts, adding the rest of the olive oil if needed. Remove from pan and if breast are really thick, slice in half to make thinner or butterfly.
Add spinach to the pan, pour in the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the pastina, stirring to distribute evenly. Add the mushroom-onion mixture and stir. Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables and top each with cheese to cover. Cover the pan with a lid or foil. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Check to make sure the chicken is not pink in the center.
Serve and enjoy.
Serves 4-6.

(For history purposes, this is being edited in 2008. This is about the time that the first challenge took place by the founders of the Daring Bakers. Wouldn't want to forget such a great beginning)

It all started with Lis and Ivonne baking this identical recipe at the same time and posting it on the same day.

Hot Buttered Pretzels
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.

For the dough:
• 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. sugar
• 1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
• 1 cup warm water (you may need a little more)

For the pretzel topping:
• 1/2 cup warm water
• 1 tsp. sugar
• kosher salt
• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1. Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Work the ingredients together until you can form a ball. If the dough is very dry, add a bit more warm water until it comes together. The dough will look messy, but don't worry about it.

2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand, and then folding it back in onto itself. Push the dough away again and then fold back in. Continue this motion, working the dough until it's smooth. This should take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough in a mixer with your dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes).

3. Once the dough is done, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour. It will rise considerably.

4. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and set aside.

6. Divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that's roughly 24 inches in length. (Don't make it too long or your pretzels will be too thin.)

7. Taking hold of the ends of the rope, cross the rope over itself to form a circle with about 4 to 5 inches on each end that are sticking out. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each end on either side of the pretzel.

8. Carefully dip the pretzel in the water and then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

9. Sprinkle the pretzels with the kosher salt and let them rest for about 15 minutes.

10. Put the pretzels in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the trays and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Keep an eye on the pretzels so that they don't burn.

11. Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with the butter. Keep brushing them with butter until you've used it all.

12. Serve the pretzels warm with plenty of mustard or another condiment of your choice.

13. Enjoy!

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