Apple Cider Vinegar Braised Chicken Thighs

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Voting for Round 2 of the Ridiculously Delicious Challenge opens at 6am EST on March 1st. I’d really appreciate it if you would consider voting for me HERE. Thanks!

I was flipping through an old issue of Food + Wine this weekend, when this unassuming recipe for chicken thighs braised in apple cider vinegar caught my eye. There was no picture and very little by way of a description, but for some reason I felt compelled to make it. Despite a brief moment of fear when I thought I might end up with something resembling pickled chicken, I immediately added the ingredients to my grocery list and prepared it for dinner that same night.

Within ten minutes of being put into the oven, this chicken filled the entire house with the most amazing smells and made our stomaches grumble. It doesn’t look like much in the pot, but this is hands-down the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Shawn agreed.

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Although the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender from braising, a few minutes under the broiler crisps the skin right back up — a trick I’ll definitely use again in the future. The cider vinegar permeates the chicken with its sweetness and gives the sauce a subtle tang that goes perfectly with sides of wild rice and steamed collard greens — go ahead and make extra sides, because you’ll want something to help sop up every last morsel of sauce.

(We’re hooked on wild rice right now but brown rice, mashed potatoes or couscous would also make great starchy sides for this meal. Also, while any green vegetable would work, the combination of collard greens and cider vinegar is a classic.)

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{Ridiculously Delicious} Saffron Game Hen; Wild Rice Dressing with Cherries and Pistachios

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Are you ready for something ridiculously delicious? That’s right, I made it to the second round of the Marx Foods Ridiculously Delicious Challenge! In this round, each contestant was asked to create a recipe using two of eight ingredient samples that we received. With ingredients ranging from coconut sugar to grains of paradise, it wasn’t an easy task!

I originally hoped to make a duck dish utilizing the dried tart cherries and tepin chilis, but had to change gears when I wasn’t able to find duck breasts. Despite having to rethink my entry in the middle of the grocery store (something I admittedly am not good at – I can’t shop without a list!), I couldn’t be happier with the meal that I came up with: a Moroccan-themed feast of Cornish game hens seasoned with saffron and lemon along with wild rice dressing with tart cherries and pistachios.

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Slathered with a combination of butter, saffron, and lemon, these brightly flavored hens boast a beautifully golden skin that crackles under your fork and gives way to succulent, juicy meat. The wild rice dressing is the perfect side dish — the rice itself is fabulously nutty and moist, while the pistachios and tart cherries contribute unexpected texture, flavor, and color. Make sure to buy dried tart cherries for this recipe — check the package closely! It’s very easy to accidentally buy dried cranberries that are only flavored like cherries, but those are much sweeter and I don’t think they would work nearly as well.

Served with a glass of wine and a side of cajun-blackened green beans, this meal was a real weeknight treat — and every bit worth the slightly longer than normal cooking time. After all, while it takes a little over an hour to prepare, it only requires you to be in the kitchen for about 15 minutes.

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Lemon and Black Pepper Pasta with Seared Scallops

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After reading the article about Spaghetti al Limone in the most recent issue of Cooks Illustrated, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen. I figured anyone who spent that much time and effort trying to recreate a dish was clearly on to something, plus we all know how I feel about entrees that feature lemon….

Of course I’m never content to leave good enough alone, so I pulled out the pasta machine that I received a while ago and set out to make a special Valentine’s Day dish that was thoroughly infused with bright, lemon flavor. Topped with a few seared sea scallops, this pasta definitely didn’t disappoint — the only thing that could have make it better would have been to eat it at a table outside, steps away from the ocean.

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No pasta machine? No Problem! While a machine definitely makes things a lot smoother, you can easily make this without one — just place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it to about 1/8-inch. Remove the paper and cut into thin, fettucini-like strands with a sharp knife or a pizza roller dipped in flour.

This was my first time using the machine (I have the Kitchen Aid press attachment, but I’ve never had good luck with it), and once I figured out what I was doing it was really easy. A few tips I picked up: Dough dries out quickly, so work with one piece at a time. Initially, I rolled all of my dough through the thickest setting of the roller, then all through the next setting, and so on. But it dried out too fast and I ended up having to throw a bunch of it out. I had much better luck when I started rolling each piece of dough to the level of thickness that I wanted and cutting it before I moved on to the next piece. I also found that the dough rolled the best when I cranked the machine at a steady, moderate speed. The instructions said to crank it slowly, but that resulted in weird, crinkly pasta (you can see them to the left in the photo below) — it still tasted great, but it wasn’t as pretty to look at.

Drying the pasta after its cut will help it to not clump together. I have this neat little tree to hang it on, but in the pat I’ve also hung pasta off of chopsticks or skewers suspended between two boxes or cans. It doesn’t take long to dry – 10 to 15 minutes is plenty.

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Garbure & A Ridiculously Delicious Challenge

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Garbure is a ridiculous soup with an even more ridiculous name. It’s also one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. With a half pound of proscuitto (and a smidge of bacon fat for good measure), how could it not be? Don’t worry though, in addition to all that porky goodness there’s enough healthy stuff to land this soup solidly in the “good choices” category of eating. Which is a good thing, considering if you’re anything like me you’ll be licking your bowl clean.

Proscuitto makes a great quick stock with subtle floral notes and reminds me of spring even as we dig ourselves out from under what must be the 50th snowstorm this winter, while a potato and some white beans cook down and let off so much creamy starch that its hard to believe that there’s no milk or cream in the recipe. Topped with blue cheese crumbles that take the flavor of this soup through the roof, this dish is rich, comforting, and filling.

I usually get tired of soup before I can finish all of the leftovers, but I ate every last drop of this and still wanted more. It’s a good thing it’s cheap an easy to make!