Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Take Out Transformation

Joining the Blog Party # 16 at Dispensing Happiness (thank you Stephanie), the challenge wasn’t really how to turn take out into party food, but how to decide what was take out. We don’t really do take out. We are too far out of town for pizza or Chinese delivery and my Sweetie doesn’t like tepid food, so we usually eat in or eat out. One of the few items I’ve done as takeout is a sandwich from our favorite café’, Redwood Café’ in Cotati. It can be reheated in the microwave without the sandwich becoming too yucky and has really good flavors and colors. It’s called Pesto Chicken Sandwich and we get it served on focaccia bread. These appetizers are a great combination of warm, melty cheese and juicy chicken combined with a jolt of pesto smoothed out with the sweetness of the roasted red pepper. The salty, olive oil infused focaccia ties it all together (and makes it possible to hold in one hand with a beer in the other).

The challenge for making the sandwich into appetizers was to find a good recipe for focaccia bread. The King Arthur Flour website had one for the bread machine that looked promising. I followed it fairly closely, but added a little more salt and did not add the Italian seasoning. I sprinkled garlic salt on the top after drizzling the olive oil. I also used the shorter rising time so that it wouldn’t be too high. That worked really well.

Once the focaccia was baked, it was a simple matter to sauté’ a chicken breast, pull my purchased pesto out of the fridge, along with some jack cheese. A jar of roasted peppers from the pantry added the final ingredient. If you were in a hurry, you could purchase pre-cooked chicken and already baked focaccia and it would be a snap to make these savory bites.

Basic Focaccia
King Arthur Flour website
Large or Small* Machine

1 cup water, warm
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose OR Unbleached Special Bread Flour
2 teaspoons salt
5 teaspoons Italian seasoning, heaping
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Place all of the ingredients into the pan of your bread machine. Program for Dough or Manual, and press Start.

*If you're using a small (1-pound) bread machine, remove the dough from the machine at the end of the second kneading cycle, and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

At the end of the cycle, remove the dough from the machine and punch it down. Roll it out to form a rectangle, and transfer it to a cookie sheet, 10 x 15-inch to 12 x 18-inch. Pat the dough into the pan. Make indentations in the dough with your fingertips, about an inch apart, and drizzle sparingly with olive oil.A plain focaccia can be topped with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Other toppings may include browned onions, fresh garlic, goat cheese, pesto, fresh sage and bacon, potatoes and rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, Gorgonzola cheese, olives, or any combination of those or other ingredients of your choice.
Let the focaccia rise for half an hour to an hour. This will make a lighter bread.
Bake the focaccia in the preheated 450°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve. Serves 6 to 10.
Nutrition information per serving (1 plain piece, 1/10 of loaf, 68g): 159 cal, 4g fat, 4g protein, 26g complex carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 427mg sodium, 76mg potassium, 1mg vitamin C, 2mg iron, 79mg calcium, 40mg phosphorus.

Pesto Chicken Savory Triangles

Cut two inch strips of focaccia bread, and then cut those into triangles. If the focaccia is very thick, split in half and use each half for one appetizer.
Place the triangles on a baking sheet and place a thin slice of jack cheese on each one. The piece should be about 1 inch square. Place the baking sheet under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese.
Pan fry a chicken breast in a little olive oil. When cooked, transfer to a cutting board. Slice pieces of chicken large enough to just fit on the bread triangles. Place on top of the cheese. Add a dab of pesto on top of the warm chicken, then cross two small, thin strips of roasted red pepper over the pesto. Return to the oven if desired to keep them warm. Serve warm.

These appetizers would go well with a cold beer, like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

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