Cucina Rustica

November 20, 2009 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment

This day broke with a frosty, sun-infused, crystal blue morning – perfect weather for a brisk pre-breakfast dog walk.  As my feet amble, my thoughts wander, and today that mental trek took me back through a cooking segment I happened to catch on T.V. last week, while working on a sewing project. 

By way of introduction, Rachel Ray called the combo of baked sausages with grapes a classic;  “Been around forever,” I think is the quote.  I’d never prepared it personally, but I was intrigued by her idea of adding chicken to the mix, and of course I fiddled quite a bit with the preparations.  My lightened version was a big enough hit at my Tuesday night in-law supper that I can highly recommend to you a menu of Baked Chicken with Italian Turkey Sausage and Black Grapes, Baked Brie with Multigrain Toast Triangles, Steamed Green Beans, some perhaps redundant Pan-Stewed Apple Slices, and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake.   

Based on crowd approval, I envision this adaptation of the main dish recipe becoming a re-run in my household.  Gotta’ love those rustic Italian cooks. 

To make the baked chicken for six, search your shelves and freezer compartments for: 

1# hot Italian turkey sausage links                 1-1/2# skinless chicken thighs

3 large skinless chicken breasts             6 large shallot bulbs, peeled & cut in two

1/4 tsp powdered thyme                           1 tsp dried marjoram                        

3 large baking potatoes                                   1 TB olive oil

4 C seedless black grapes                             1/4 C balsamic vinegar

1/4 C chicken broth                                        10 drops liquid stevia 

In a large, shallow roasting pan set over two stove burners, lightly brown the sausages and chicken thighs along with the shallots.  Cut the chicken breasts in half crosswise and add to pan to brown lightly on both sides.  Sprinkle chicken with thyme and marjoram.  Scrub potatoes well and cut into 2″ chunks; place olive oil in a medium bowl and toss with potato chunks to coat evenly .  Remove pan from heat and push the chicken and sausage to one end, making room to lay the potatoes in the pan, cut surface down.  Remove grapes from stems and sprinkle evenly around pan.  Bake at 375° for one hour.  

Combine the vinegar, broth, and stevia in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until slightly reduced.  Pour over chicken and sausages and return pan to oven for only the last five minutes of baking.  Be careful not to allow glaze to harden in pan. 

For the baked cheese, simply peel a round of brie (or camembert, if you prefer) and place it on a square of baking parchment on one end of a cookie sheet.  Lay some thin-sliced multigrain bread (cut in halves or quarters at an angle, if the slices are from a large loaf) in a single layer at the other end of the baking sheet.  Pop this into the oven for the last 15 minutes of the main dish baking time.  

Core, slice thin, and sauté four large apples in a tiny dab of butter and a bit of canola oil to serve with the cheese and bread, if you like.  Add a drizzle of maple syrup or sugar-free caramel flavoring syrup (the kind they charge a buck-fifty to add to your gourmet coffee order).  Set the pan over low heat, stirring occasionally, and these can simmer for the hour it takes for the chicken to bake.  Or you can skip the fat and flavoring and just pour in a little apple juice, cover, and let simmer on its own.

And for a seasonally correct dessert, the pumpkin cake is a nice ending: 

2 C brown sugar                1 C softened butter or canola oil            2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla                              2 TB milk                                          1-15oz can pumpkin

2 tsp baking soda                 2 tsp baking powder                         1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon             2 C flour                                         2 C wheat flour

1 C dark chocolate chips            1 C chopped pecans                          3/4 C currants 

Cream together the sugar and butter.  Mix in the eggs until well blended, then stir in the vanilla, milk, and pumpkin.  Whisk together the soda, powder, salt, cinnamon, and flour, and blend dry ingredients into wet, a little at a time.  Fold in the chocolate chips, pecans, and currants, and pour into a greased 13″ x 9″ x 2″ pan at 375° for 45 minutes or until the cake tests done with a toothpick jabbed into it’s center.  Cool on wire racks, then dust with sifted confectioner’s sugar. 

Gingerbread would also be a lovely finish to this meal.  And that suggestion has set my mind wandering again, back to the late 60’s, when our downtown Minneapolis Dayton’s store had a fabulous restaurant on one of the upper floors where I had my first taste of gingerbread served with whipped cream cheese – probably with a touch of powdered sugar beaten in – then topped with a warm lemon sauce.  While I research that concoction for a future posting, do enjoy what’s left of pumpkin season and the new-to-some-of-us taste sensation of roasted black grapes, and do let me know what you think of my version of this traditional dish.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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