Thursday, October 8, 2009

I LOVE THOSE LITTLE JARS!

You know the ones...those jams and jellies that show up at Home Goods and TJ Maxx or on the remote shelves of Kriegers? They are almost as addictive to me as chocolate chip cookies and freshly fried bacon. I can spend long periods of time looking them over, marveling over the interesting flavors and the beautiful jewel-toned contents. Not to mention the sometimes beautiful containers they come in.

They beckon to me with names like "Peach Ginger Sauterne Preserves", “Vidalia® Onion Cranberry Pepper Jelly” and "Seedless Raspberry Kirsch Jam". How can you not want to take these little gems home! The problem is that once I have them at home I sometimes have no idea what to do with them. I have discovered that the Peach Ginger Sauterne Preserves go wonderfully with my sweet potato biscuits and ham - just a bite of sweet and salty on a flaky little biscuit....YUM! The Cranberry Hot Pepper Jelly is a great topper to cream cheese and crackers. But since I'm not a big toast and jam kind of eater, what in the heck do I do with all these jars that I collect in the bottom of my pantry?

So I searched the web and came up with some interesting recipes that I'm working to modify for one-person meals. I first discovered that there are a ton of interesting products out there but very little in the way of ideas to use them - aside from the obvious toast or cracker option, of course. Other people must be a lot more creative than I am if they have these jams and jellies in their pantry. Or perhaps that's why I find so many of them sitting on the shelves of the discount stores, maybe we don’t really know what to do with them!

I chose to open a jar of Hot Pepper Jelly (that the WITAN ladies sell every year at their French Market) and try out a few ideas to see if I could make a whole meal with this for myself. And no...that doesn't mean just eating it straight out of the jar!

My meals for one usually consist of a protein, a salad (maybe) and a side (veggie or pasta). Also a glass of wine or a mixed concoction of some sort to wash it down. And it should be relatively quick and easy (or I wouldn’t attempt it again). Here is the quick menu I came up with and my notes for getting it done on a weeknight when I arrive home hungry and tired.

Salad of baby greens with sweet dried cranberries and some crunchy candied walnuts dressed with a hot pepper jelly vinaigrette.

Side of warmed baby beets glazed with pepper jelly and butter.

BREADED CHICKEN CUTLET

with a wine and pepper jelly reduction.
I managed to use my fancy jelly in all of my recipes and there wasn’t a piece of toast involved! This turned out to be quite a sweet meal, so if you want to tone down the sugar content a bit, change up the breading to include a classic flour, egg wash, bread crumb process instead of the jelly. Although everything was quite good, I admit the sugar content was a bit high. Overall you're getting about 3 Tbls. of jelly for the entire meal - which isn't that much overall. The plus side...I certainly had no desire for dessert!

Handy idea: I keep a stash of frozen chicken cutlets in my freezer for nights just like this. They are individually wrapped and will thaw if put into a bowl of cold water in a matter of minutes. I bring home a batch of boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they're on sale, slice them in half and pound them to about 1/4-1/3 inch thickness, then freeze.

Vinaigrette: Wisk 1 Tbls jelly, 1 Tbls vinegar (I used pear vinegar because I had it in the pantry and it sounded good), a touch of salt and pepper. While whisking, stream in 2-3 Tbls olive oil. Pour over salad greens. Toss in some dried cranberries and candied walnuts.

Glazed Beets: Toss a small jar or can of baby beets (mostly drained) into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbls cranberry pepper jelly and 1 Tbls butter. Heat through until the broth glazes the beets thoroughly. Add some fresh thyme leaves if you like.

Chicken Cutlet: Pat chicken cutlet dry with a paper towel. Spread one side of cutlet with a thin layer of jelly (about 1-2 tsp.). Push that side of the cutlet into the some seasoned bread crumbs (you can use Panko if you like, but I used 1 piece of my whole grain bread put through the food processor and added some salt, pepper and a few thyme leaves to season). Spread pepper jelly on the other side of the cutlet, then turn to coat evenly in the crumbs.

In a small skillet, pan fry the cutlet in olive oil until golden brown on each side (4-5 minutes per side). Remove from pan and set aside to rest. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, making sure to remove all the crispy bits so they won't burn. In the skillet over medium-high heat, add 4 tbls. white wine and 1 tbls. pepper jelly. Whisk to combine until jelly melts then continue to cook until reduced to about 2 tbls. Add in about 1/2 tbls. butter and whisk to combine until it becomes silky and smooth. Pour over cutlet and serve.

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