Chicken Cordon Bleu

On May 14, 2012, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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To the unfamiliar, Chicken Cordon Bleu sounds like an elaborate meal that takes a lot of time and expert cooking.  Fortunately, the reality is a rather simple dish that even a novice cook can accomplish with little effort while impressing his or her guests.

This version is adapted from the blog The Girl Who Ate Everything. I eliminated the Parmesan Dijon Cream Sauce and instead of laying the cheese and ham on top of the chicken breasts, I sliced the chicken in half and laid the ham and cheese inside the chicken breast.

For the chicken I use a local Chicken Ranch, Windy Meadow Farms, and for the ham we buy the Niman Ranch European Style ham found at our Whole Foods deli counter.

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 slices of ham
4 slices of baby swiss cheese
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons butter
ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly butter a baking dish.  Prepare the chicken by carefully slicing the breasts in half, keeping one end intact. With the chicken breast open, lay a slice of ham and cheese inside and then lay the half over the ham and cheese.  Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter and pour into a small bowl with the bread crumbs to combine.

In a baking dish sprinkle some of the bread crumbs on the bottom of the dish.  Lay your chicken breasts on top and rub the remaining bread crumbs on the the chicken. Sprinkle baking dish with ground pepper (you don’t need salt due to the ham.)

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until bread crumbs begin to turn medium brown.

Serve.

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Chipotle Uses Video to Promote Local Sourcing

On August 30, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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My Bullshit Meter goes off when I see fast food chains trying to position themselves as being friendly and supportive of small farms. Some marketing of local food support is utter nonsense and downright missing the point. For example, we kept seeing billboards from McDonald’s stating how they use “Local Michigan Eggs” which left me wondering – And? And are those eggs from chickens treated humanly from non-factory farming operations without antibiotics and cramped miserable conditions?

I never took a picture of the McDonald’s local egg billboard, but they did other “localwashing” ads with products in the Northwest, “from here” campaign, looking to showcase local factory farms they source from.

The good news is Chipotle isn’t McDonald’s. They have quite a few initiatives ongoing around local food and improving the fast food supply chain. More here on the Haute Pasture blog: What is Food with Integrity?

And recently Chipotle announced they would double their efforts of sourcing locally from 5 million pounds to 10 million pounds of produce.

It’s also no coincidence the video features pigs instead of cows or chickens since Chipotle sources 100% of its pork from Niman Ranch, a company we buy from with a stellar reputation in the industry. Chipotle is trying to meet its “naturally raised” standards, but that has been more difficult to do.

In the end, I think Chipotle is serious and trying its best to demonstrate sustainable farming is possible as a source for fast food. I guess the video conveys this, but it is not very clear.

Basically, it’s nice imagery and music showing farm-to-Chipotle. There is no end message sharing what they are doing and I’m unsure others will get how focused Chipotle is on this topic. Perhaps their fans already know and this is simply a vehicle for their advocates to spread the more underlying message?

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My First Attempt at an Alice Waters’ Recipe

On August 26, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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It’s no secret to those who read this blog regularly that I am an advocate of local food, but I’m just another person in this movement. The chef most responsible for giving local food a renewed prominence is without a doubt Alice Waters. Her restaurant Chez Panisse is a mecca for the local food movement. I still haven’t been to Berkeley, California even though I was born in California and lived there for 11 years, but 99% of my time was spent in Los Angeles.

With no near term plans for a trip to Berkeley, I decided to pick up one of Alice’s cookbooks from a Border’s that was closing (sad to see Border’s go.) I found a copy of her Pasta, Pizza, Calzone cookbook.

The book is organized by season since her cooking philosophy is using fresh, local ingredients of course that means fresh and local in her region of Northern California so it’s not always local to everyone. I did find one recipe that met local, fresh ingredients for an August in Texas. I found some great Sweet 100 local tomatoes at Whole Foods and bought some basil and made fresh linguine pasta. The recipe also called for bread crumbs, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. It was very simple, almost too simple.

The flavor was okay, but that was mainly due to the recipe calling for an unnecessary large amount of bread crumbs – 1 1/2 cups. I reduced it to 1 cup and even then only used about a 1/4 of a cup and that was still too much for two people. The recipe should’ve called for a teaspoon garnish on top for each dish and it’s a change I’ll make on my next attempt at this.

The Sweet 100 tomatoes were excellent as they provided such a vibrant, summer taste that really brought out the joys of simple summer food which I’m sure was the whole point.

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Better Bacon

On May 2, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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I love bacon. Who doesn’t right? In fact, bacon has become all the rage lately. If you want to explain your love of any food, bacon is the one that will get you a lot of smiles and a few high-fives. It’s a popular food choice. But what about the choices you have for the brand of bacon to buy.

You can buy an Oscar Mayer brand bacon like their Center Cut Original brand, but that contains sugar or evaporated cane sugar if you go with a smoked variety. Of course that’s also factory farmed pork and well sugar is the least of your problems (go ahead and Google factory farming pigs and you’ll see.)

So what are some smart decisions when it comes to bacon? An easier find for those with natural food stores or a Trader Joe’s is Niman Ranch bacon. It does have a small amount of turbinado sugar, which is a less processed sugar. The better feature is that Niman Ranch raises its pigs in humane way and all with the “finest vegetarian feed.”

The other option is to do something we are adopting more which is buying “pork belly” from a local ranch. We buy from the same place we buy all of our meats, Burgundy Pasture Beef in Grandview, Texas. Buying “bacon” this way is a bit different than buying a processed product. Pork belly is simply natural pork. There is no curing, no nitrates, and nothing is smoked. It’s simply just pork and requires the cook to salt and pepper the pork belly before cooking.

So I finished cooking some Niman Ranch bacon last weekend and as you can tell it cooks nicely. Trust me it is some of the best tasting bacon I’ve ever had. Pork belly is a better choice, but I have to admit with bacon some processing does make for a more flavorful product.

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Restaurant Review: Mind, Body, & Spirits

On March 1, 2009, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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The above photo is the Half Roasted Chicken at Mind Body & Spirits a new restaurant in Rochester Hills, Michigan that we enjoyed last Friday night. And by enjoyed, I mean the food but also leaving the boys with the in-laws.

Mind Body & Spirits is a very unique restaurant. We discovered them when I came across some Vegan cookies at Plum Market. Oscar is allergic to egg so finding Vegan treats is a rare thing even if the bag of cookies was a hefty $8.99 for eight. Stephanie checked out their website and noticed the restaurant. The place is an “eco-conscious restaurant.” A what? Eco-conscious? But I just want some good food. Do I really care if they have a high capacity food waste compressor, bamboo floors, on-site greenhouse and solar panels? Not really, but it is unique and if the food is good, I’ll be really impressed.

We started with a fairly unusual appetizer, Tarragon Gnocchi. It was made with homemade potato gnocchi, tarragon, balsamic vinegar, arugula, and Hoisin sauce. It was very different and at first bite not sure if either of us liked it. Second bite, I think this is good? Third…fourth…fifth bites and I’m starting to wonder how to make this at home (yes, expect an attempt on the blog soon.)

For dinner, Stephanie had the chicken dish which was flavored by a Hoisin glaze and I went with one of their Vegan dishes, Winter White Bean Cassoulet. Both meals were very good, but we had to try some desserts. I went with a small plate of Madelines (not as good as my friend Lorriane, but still very enjoyable with my coffee.) Stephanie went all out with an impressive brownies and cookies and cream (see photo at right.)

We will definitely return to try some other meals and were impressed by a kids menu too.