Roast Chicken with Mustard Vinaigrette

This is fairly easy recipe that I chose because I have TONS of fresh rosemary & sage growing next to my house (though nothing else). It was quite good and Mika proclaimed it very loudly to be the BEST CHICKEN EVER. I thought it was good, not amazing, but I’ll defer to her opinion 🙂 The recipe, as usual, comes from

Roast Chicken with Mustard Vinaigrette

    For the vinaigrette

  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt or more
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • pepper

For the chicken

  • 1 5-6 lb chicken
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 fresh rosemary springs
  • 2 fresh sage sprigs
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped

Make the marinade by whisking together the vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly, until it emulsifies. Season with additional salt & pepper if needed. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Pat the chicken dry. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the shallot and rosemary & sage spring inside the cavity.

Loosen the skin on top of the breast and thighs and spread 2 Tbsp. of the vinaigrette under the skin. Tie the legs of the chicken together and tuck the wings under its body. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Brush 2 Tbsp. vinaigrette over the chicken and sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sage. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat chicken dry. Season cavity with salt and pepper. Place shallot, 2 rosemary sprigs and 2 sage sprigs in cavity. Slide hand between chicken skin and meat over breast to form pockets. Spread 2 tablespoons vinaigrette under skin over breast meat. Tie legs together to hold shape; tuck wings under body. Place chicken in roasting pan. Brush 2 tablespoons vinaigrette over chicken. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sage. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Cook until the chicken achieves an internal temperature of 165°F and the juices run clear, about 1 h our. Remove and let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with remaining vinaigrette.

Marga’s Best Recipes

Hart Orange Chicken – Product review

It’s unlikely you’ll find anything if you look for “Hart Authentic Orange Chicken” online – at least I didn’t find anything when I looked. It seems that this frozen entree is made by Hart Food Products from Lakewood, CA. I bought it at Grocery Outlet, and I imagine they are their only distributor. Actually, given Hart’s pathetic website, it’s difficult to believe they are any sort of serious company. Which really tells you something about where Grocery Outlet sources its products. And indeed, orange chicken seems to be one of only three or four products Hart offers .

Anyway, I was in Grocery Outlet yesterday and thought I’d take a look at the frozen stuff they had, as I’ve been feeling less and less like cooking lately. This orange chicken product didn’t seem too bad – at least in comparison to the brand-name frozen food products. Yeah, it has a lot of salt, corn syrup and a myriad of preservatives, but so do all the brand name products. At least it had chicken as its main ingredient 🙂

It’s not obvious from the picture in the package, but this is really popcorn chicken – which is annoying as that means it has much more breading than you would like. It’s uncooked so you need to bake it for 20 minutes, pan fry it for 10 to 15 minutes, or deep fry it for 6 minutes. Then you mix it with the orange sauce which comes in 3 packages. You can’t microwave it.

As for the taste, it met our very low expectations. Mike found it too bland, while I thought the chicken had a subtle “off” flavor. The sauce was OK, somewhat orangy and not too sweet.

I’m unlikely to buy it again.


** UPDATE July 2012**

The owner of Hart Chicken e-mailed me a few weeks ago and told me they’d made changes to their product and to give it another try.  I was reluctant, because one of the changes involved getting a different supplier of chicken pieces that produced more uniform – but smaller – pieces.  I figured one of the major problems was the size of the pieces, so this wouldn’t help.  But I figured I would give the product another try (though it would have been nice if he’d sent me a coupon rather than I having to buy it myself) and I was happier than the time before.

The pieces are still small (they need to be in order to be ready within a reasonably period of time, given that they are not pre-cooked), but this time I went into the meal experience thinking of it as popcorn chicken.  So I wasn’t disappointed by their size.

I also used much less oil than the instructions called for, which you can do if you stir fry the chicken.

The sauce was supposed to have an improved flavor, and I think it did.  It was just the right amount to coat all the chicken – though a bit more would have been welcomed  for any rice or veggies you might want to throw in. I did note this time that the sauce takes on a full 10 oz of the 32 oz of the package, which is quite a lot.

Anyway,  Hart Orange Chicken is still not for me, though as you can see below it has many lovers (and haters).


Cookbook Review: Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan of Gordon Ramsay’s (I’d probably have to eat in his restaurants to really appreciate him), but I do like watching Kitchen Nightmares from time to time – even though the program is all in all pretty repetitive.

Anyway, I saw Ramsay’s cookbook (Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food) at the library and thought I’d give it a try. During the week, I do need recipes that can be done rather quickly. Plus I wanted to see if he’s as good as he believes.

One thing I can say, is that his book reflects his personality, at least as seen on TV. The book is completely frantic, going from one topic to another apparently randomly. Instead of having the recipes organized by ingredient, they are intercepted by recipes from different cuisines or courses. A chapter on working lunches, for example, is followed by one on Mexican flavors. The book is also very colorful and has pretty pictures of all the included dishes. The recipes are relatively simple, though not necessarily cheap.

The first dish I tried was his Pasta with pancetta, leek & mushrooms. Rather than spend $ on pancetta, I used bacon. I did use creme fraiche, which was a waste of money (I bought it at Safeway, it’s half as cheap at Trader Joe’s). I can’t imagine it made too much of a difference. In any case, I was not impressed. The dish was quite bland. It’d have been much better (but much more caloric) with twice the amount of bacon. I did add a lot of Parmesan cheese, and that helped – but then again, pasta with Parmesan cheese by itself is pretty good. I would not make this dish again. You can find my adaptation of the recipe below.

The second dish was Baked pork chops with a piquant sauce, a recipe which you can also find online. I followed this one pretty closely as well, though I used a different type of mushrooms and used dried thyme instead of fresh (because I couldn’t find fresh thyme last time I went to Safeway). My one big mistake was misreading “1 Tbsp” sugar for “1 tsp” sugar – so the resulting sauce was a tad too sweet. Mike liked the overall dish, but I wasn’t too impressed yet again. It just seemed like an average dish, not bad, not great. I probably wouldn’t make it again either. My version of the recipe (with the correct amount of sugar) is below as well.

BTW, IMHO, the recipe produces too much sauce for the pork chops, I’d either reduce it by a third or use it with 6 pork chops. I served them with buttermilk mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Finally, I made Sticky Lemon Chicken, another recipe easily found online. Indeed, it seems that you can find many of his recipes online, so it may not be worth it to buy his cookbook at all (it’s pretty sad that he has to recycle old recipes into a new book, rather than coming up with new ones). In any case, even though I skipped the fresh thyme and parsley listed in the original recipe, the results were quite good. I should say that the recipe calls for 1 large chicken cut into pieces – there is no suggestion that the chicken should be boneless. HOWEVER, as I suspected, my bone-in chicken parts did not cook in the 15 minutes it takes for the sauce to cook. I’d suggest that you either use boneless chicken for this recipe, or be prepared to cook the chicken for at least half an hour. I’d also suggest that you cover the dish while cooking. My suggestions are incorporated into the recipe below.

When l originally wrote this posting, I forgot dessert! Indeed, I made one of the desserts from the book, the Banana mousse with butterscotch ripple, it was very easy, quite good and extremely caloric. Still, it’s definitely the sort of dessert you can whip up when you really, really, really want something sweet to finish a meal – and happen to have both bananas and whipping cream handy. I did like how easy it was to make the butterscotch. This was my second adventure in candy making (the first being toffee).


Penne with Bacon, Leeks & Mushrooms

  • 10 oz dried penne
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large leek, finely sliced
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. creme fraiche
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese

Boil the penne in salted water until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil to medium-high in a large skillet. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown. Add the leek and mushrooms; season with salt & pepper. Cook over high heat until the leeks are tender, about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Drain the pasta and immediately mix with the leek/mushroom mixture and the creme fraiche. Season again with salt & pepper. Sprinkle with the parsley and mix. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Baked Pork Chops with a Piquant Sauce

  • olive oil
  • 4 pork chops
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 3 rosemary sprigs (leaves only)
  • 1/2 head of garlic, separated into cloves but left unpeeled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red Jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 8oz white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly oil a baking sheet large enough to accommodate the pork chops.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the pork chops. Place in the baking sheet and sprinkle with thyme. Put the rosemary leaves and unpeeled garlic cloves on top of the pork chops. Drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven and cook until done 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, red pepper, jalapeño and mushrooms. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and add sugar, mix. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the onions are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Once the pork chops are ready, let them rest for 5 minutes. Plate them, pour any liquid remaining in the baking sheet onto the sauce, and mix well. Spoon the sauce onto the pork chops and serve.

Sticky Lemon Chicken

  • 5 lb bone-in chicken pieces (or equivalent boneless chicken)
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 lemon, finely sliced

Salt and pepper the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and garlic and sprinkle with thyme. Brown the chicken on both sides.

Add the sherry vinegar and boil until reduced by half. Add the soy sauce and honey and shake the pan to mix. Add the hot water and lemon slices. Mix well. If using bone-in chicken, cover the pan and cook until the chicken is almost done (half an hour or so). Then uncover and boil the liquid until syrupy. If using boneless chicken, cook uncovered until the chicken is done and the liquid is syrupy, around 10 minutes, turning once.

Banana mousse with butterscotch ripple

  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate

Place the bananas in the freezer for 1-2 hours, if possible. When they are ready, peel and chop them.

Meanwhile, make the butterscoth sauce by putting the sugar, butter and 2/3 cup of whipping cream in a small heavy pot and cooking it over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted, stirring constantly. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, still stirring, and then remove from the heat and let the sauce cool down completely.

Put the bananas, the lemon juice and the remaining whipping cream in a blender bowl. Blend until smooth and creamy.
To assemble, spoon some butterscotch along the sides of 4 glasses or serving bowls. Pour in the banana mousse and top with some more butterscotch. Grate some chocolate on top of each bowl and serve.

Marga’s Best Recipes

Chicken Marsala Redux

I’ve made this recipe for chicken marsala 3 or 4 times now, and I still can’t believe how incredibly delicious it is. It’s probably the best thing I’ve made. I have the link to the recipe at epicurious in another posting, but I’ve decided to post it here as well and link it from my favorite recipes page.

Today I forgot to salt the chicken – but the sauce was so rich in flavor that it didn’t really need it. I also accidentally added a half a cup of white wine, but that only meant I had to boil it a bit longer. I used dried sage, which I hadn’t used before, and I think it probably made it even better.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

1 small shallot, finely chopped
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz sliced mushrooms
a dash of dried sage
a dash of black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup of water
1 3/4 tsp. Better than Bullion chicken base
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Marsala wine
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. lemon juice

Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet and add shallot. Cook over moderate heat until golden, about 1 minute. Add sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are golden and the liquid has evaporated, 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat.

Turn oven to 200F

Put flour in a shallow bowl. Put chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound until about 1/4″ thick. Dredge in flour. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sautee first batch of chicken on both sides until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side for chicken thighs. Place the chicken in a shallow pan in the oven. Dry the skillet with paper towels and add another Tbsp. of oil and butter. Melt and sautee the rest of the chicken. Put it in the oven.

Deglace the pan with the white wine. Add marsala wine, bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds. Add water, chicken base, cream and mushrooms – boil, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, around 10 minutes. Add lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. wine and a sprinkle of dried sage.
Serve sauce over chicken.

Whole Chicken Braised with Pears

The weather has once again turned cold and rainy, which put me in a mood for braising. A good thing as last week I got a copy of All About Braising. I decided to invite my friends Regina and Boris for dinner and as the only meat Regina eats is chicken, then it was a chicken that I had to braise. This recipe sounded good and seemed relatively simple.

I served it with a rice pilaf (rice cooked in chicken broth with onion, saffron, cinnamon, paprika and thyme) – which was OK but not great – and started the meal with a mixed green salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette I’d previously made. Everybody loved it.
I followed the recipe pretty much as in the book, though I used beef stock instead of chicken as I had some leftover and I didn’t have rosemary around, so I used dry thyme instead. I also used cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar as I didn’t have any of the latter around. The recipe below reflects my modifications. I used Bosc pears, as they are in season right now, though you can also use Forelles.

Everybody loved the recipe and Mike would like me to make it again. I found the flavor a little too mild for my taste, though I’ll add it to my repertoire.

Whole Chicken Braised with Pears


  • 1 – 4 1/2 lb chicken
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • dried thyme to taste
  • 3 just-ripe Bosc pears
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. cider or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar


Tear off any large chunks of fat from the chicken and discard. Remove the giblets from the chicken and set aside, except for the liver which you should discard. Cut off the last two joints from each wing of the chicken and set aside with the giblets.

Wash the chicken inside and out and pat dry. Salt and pepper it inside and out. Sprinkle dried thyme inside. Cut one of pears in four pieces and put it inside the chicken. Truss it and pat it dry again.

Heat the oven to 300 F.

Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a pot large enough to hold the chicken or a Dutch oven. Put the chicken and brown on each side. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the giblets and wing tips and brown. Remove and set aside with the chicken. Pour off the fat from the pot and discard.

Melt 1 tbsp of butter in the pot. Add the chopped leek and shallots, salt, pepper and about 1 tsp of dried thyme. Sauté until the vegetables are soft. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and boil for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Return chicken to the pot, setting it on top of the vegetables. Put giblets and wings around the chicken. Cover the pot with wax paper, pressing down so it almost touches the chicken. Cover with the lid and put in the oven. Cook until the chicken reaches 170 degree, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Every 20 minutes, baste it with the juices.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the garnish. Peel the remaining two pears, core them and cut them in slices. Melt 2 tbsp. of butter in a skillet and add the pears. Toss them to coat them with butter. Add the sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until the pears start to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir and cook for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and set aside.

When the chicken is ready, remove from the pot and keep warm under a towel or aluminum foil. Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan and discard the vegetables. Boil the braising liquid until it acquires the consistency of a thick vinaigrette. Add the pear garnish to the sauce and mix well.

Serve the chicken alongside the pear garnish.

Marga’s Best Recipes

Chicken with dumplings

I wrote this post in 2004. Since then, I’ve made this recipe many, many, many times. It’s one of my kids’ favorite, as well as my own. It’s very simple, it only requires buying 3 ingredients (chicken, onions & celery), and it’s absolutely delicious. I’m re-editing this post by doubling the recipe for the dumplings, they’re the best part 🙂

Last night I made chicken and dumplings. This was a favorite recipe of mine when I was a kid, probably because it was a specialty of my grandmother and my father, whom I loved very much. It also tasted completely different from everything else we ate in Argentina. I based the recipe below on my father’s recipe, which didn’t have precise measures. I also looked at this recipe at to give me some guidance. The dish came out great, I loved it and I will certainly make it again.

Note that with these measures, the dumplings are not very sturdy, they broke up very easily. I liked this, as they helped make the sauce much denser, though if you prefer firmer dumplings you may want to use another dumpling recipe (like this one). You can vary the spices in the broth and add whatever you like, you can also use fresh parsley, I used dried ’cause that’s what I had at hand.

Chicken and Dumplings

For the chicken

  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 lbs chicken parts
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 4 cups water (about)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

For the dumplings

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the chopped onion and fry over medium-low heat until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken parts and brown on all sides. Add the celery. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Add the herbs and spices, mix, turn down the heat and simmer over low heat uncovered until the chicken starts falling apart from the bones, about an hour. Add more water if necessary.

Meanwhile prepare the dumplings. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together. Add the butter and blend together using a fork or your hands. Put the mixture into the fridge until the chicken is almost ready. Remove and slowly add the milk, blending with a fork.

Add the dumplings to the simmering liquid by the spoonfull. Let them cook for about 5-8 minutes and then flip. Cook for 5 more minutes or until cooked through. When you put them in the water and/or flip them parts of the dumplings will fall off and mix in with the broth making a gravy. Stir to make sure this happens. If it doesn’t, add some extra flour and stir until the gravy is the consistency you like.

Marga’s Best Recipes

Granny’s & Gladys’ Recipe Book

Chicken Cordon Blue

Oftentimes when I ask Mike what he wants for dinner, he tells me “chicken cordon blue”. He had no idea what chicken cordon blue was, but it sounded French and complicated and he figured I wouldn’t make it. That way, he didn’t have to actually think of something I could make for dinner.

Every time he mentions it, I call his bluff, tell him what chicken cordon blue is (for some reason he keeps forgetting) and he backs off from it. Finally, I figured that the best way to finish this routine was to actually make some chicken cordon blue so he could decide for himself whether he wanted it or not. I’m not sure now if that was such a great idea.
Chicken cordon blue (fried chicken breasts stuffed with ham & cheese) has never sounded that appealing to me, it made me think of ’50s housewives, but I was determined to find a good recipe. I couldn’t find any on, but had plenty of well-rated cordon blue recipes. I decided on this one not only because it got great reviews, but because it was very simple and it came with a sauce. It was a great choice. The chicken was quite good and the sauce worthy of its many calories.

I diverged from the original recipe in a few ways. I used prosciutto instead of ham, Provolone cheese instead of Swiss, and beef bouillon instead of chicken bouillon. I also cooked it for only 20 minutes instead of the required 30 as several reviewers had complained that the chicken was too dry. The chicken was fully cooked after 20 minutes so it didn’t require any extra time.

This dish is actually good enough that you could serve to company.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 slices Provolone or Swiss cheese
  • 4 slices prosciutto or ham
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp. chicken or beef bouillon granules
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch


Pound the chicken breasts until they are very thin. Place a slice of cheese and prosciutto on each breast. Fold over and fasten with toothpicks. Mix the flour with the paprika. Dust the breasts with the flour mixture.

In a large skillet melt the butter. Brown the chicken breasts on all sides. Add the wine and bouillon. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until done.
Remove the chicken from the pot and keep warm. Mix the whipping cream with the cornstarch. Whisk gradually into the simmering sauce. Simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens. Serve the chicken with the sauce.

Marga’s Best Recipes