wild card wednesday: asparagus manchego tart, kale gratin with comté, and roasted chicken thighs

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Ohhhhhh yeahhh.  Wild Card Wednesday: Challenge Cheese is in full effect this evening.

Last week, Alex used Swiss, sharp cheddar, and Boursin.  This week, I used manchego and comté.  Manchego is a Spanish goat’s milk cheese that is hard in texture and nutty in flavor.  Comté is made from French cow’s milk, is semi-hard in texture, and, similar to Gruyere, is creamy and buttery in flavor.

My name is Eleta Morrison, and I am a cheese-a-holic. (Hi, Eleta…)  I’ve been sober from this affliction for…zero days.

Seriously–if I were on a desert island, if I had my last meal, etc., I’d have a cheese plate with a nice wine, thank you.  When Alex asked me to choose the theme for September’s Wild Card Wednesday, I knew just the thing: cheese.  Why not?

First, I’ll start with the asparagus manchego tart.  Let’s look at it again:

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Mmmmmm.  I found several recipes for asparagus tarts with Gruyere, ricotta, and fontina (all delicious), but when I saw the plethora of manchego at Fresh Market, I changed my plans.  Here’s the recipe:

Asparagus Manchego Tart

Flour, for work surface

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (I use Dufour Pastry Kitchens brand, available at Fresh Market)

1 1/2 cups manchego cheese, shredded

1 1/2 pounds thin asparagus

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a large rectangle.  Place pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with manchego. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the manchego, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Next, let’s tackle the kale gratin with comté, or as I like to call it: kale and cheese.  This gratin is so tasty and totally hits the spot when you’re craving mac-n-cheese, but the silver lining is that along with all of that ooey-gooey cheese and cream, you’re also getting an awesome dose of vitamin K and fiber.

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Kale Gratin with Comté
1 bunch of kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp. butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) coarsely grated comté cheese

Over medium-high heat on a stove top, cook down the kale and olive oil.  Turn off heat and set aside.

For the sauce, combine creamand garlic in a small saucepan; bring to simmer; keep warm. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, one minute, then slowly whisk in warm cream/milk and boil, whisking, one minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Assemble: Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 8×11 baking dish. Distribute half of the greens mixture, then half of the cheese, then sprinkle some parsley on top of the cheese.  Pour half of bechamel sauce over the first two layers then continue with the remaining greens, cheese, and parsley. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the gratin.

Bake gratin for about 1 hour until golden and bubbly, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Lastly, the roasted chicken thighs.  I think I’ve already expressed my love of dark meat chicken to you (yes, it’s not as good for you; now pass me a leg and no one gets hurt), but let me say it again: dark meat chicken is underrated!  Chicken thighs are cheaper and juicer that chicken breasts, and they’re definitely worth a look.

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Roasted Chicken Thighs

1 lemon

4 small skin-on, boneless chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided

3 sprigs oregano

1 Tbsp. minced shallot

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425°. Very thinly slice half of lemon; discard any seeds. Cut remaining lemon half into 2 wedges. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Coat a large room-temperature skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Place skillet over medium heat and cook, letting skin render and brown, and pouring off excess fat to maintain a thin coating in pan, until chicken is cooked halfway through, about 10 minutes.

Scatter half of lemon slices over chicken and half on bottom of skillet (the slices on top of the chicken will soften; those in the skillet will caramelize). Transfer skillet to oven, leaving chicken skin side down. Roast until chicken is cooked through, skin is crisp, and lemon slices on bottom of skillet are caramelized, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, and caramelized lemon slices from bottom of skillet to a warm platter. (Leave softened lemon slices in the skillet.) Return skillet to medium heat. Add oregano sprigs, shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Remove skillet from heat. Add wine; cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth; cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over and season sauce with salt, pepper, and juice from remaining lemon wedge, if desired. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil. Return chicken to skillet, skin side up, to rewarm. Serve topped with caramelized lemon slices.

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