Friday, July 27, 2012

Aurora's 'Famous' Pepperoni Chicken

Please tell me I'm not the only person on the planet who remembers Seems Like Old Times with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn.

This movie is so 80's it makes me want to roll up my shirt sleeves and curl my bangs. Goldie Hawn drives a station wagon, Chevy Chase is still handsome, and haute couture cuisine is pepperoni chicken. Specifically - Aurora's Famous Pepperoni Chicken - their housekeeper's signature dish that she makes for VIP guests.

I've wanted to make this dish for years. The only problem was there was no recipe. A quick Google search revealed other 80's fans like me who had looked for it in vain. Luckily the major players in the recipe are in the name.

I started with the most obvious, the chicken, flattening boneless skinless breasts and seasoning them with salt, pepper and dried oregano. I then sprinkled them with lots of shredded parmesan and added a layer of pepperoni over the top. I rolled the breasts up like a burrito, staked them shut with spaghetti noodles and baked them in a bath of tomato sauce and red pepper flakes. In the last couple minutes, I added thin slices of fresh mozzarella over the top and browned them under the broiler.

I have no idea if what I concocted was at all like the recipe in the movie but I was shocked at how good it was. What started as a joke-slash-kitchen-therapy resulted in a new favorite dish. I too would serve this to senators and head judges, just like they do in the film.

Thanks Aurora!

Aurora's 'Famous' Pepperoni Chicken
* You can assemble the entire dish ahead (sans the mozzarella) and refrigerate for up to 8 hours before baking. Just put into a cold oven uncovered and bake as directed.

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
1 cup shredded parmesan
salt and pepper
onion powder
dried oregano
1 package pepperoni slices
red pepper flakes
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices
1 (16 oz) jar of your favorite marinara sauce (mine is Rao's)
spaghetti or toothpicks for securing the chicken

Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

To each flattened chicken breast, season 1 side (the topside) with salt, pepper, onion powder and a good pinch of dried oregano each, scattering it evenly over. Next add a layer of shredded park - just a light but solid layer (you don't want too much or it will be hard to roll them.) Finally add a layer of pepperoni, just overlapping them slightly. Again don't go doubling up the pepperoni or it will be too hard to roll.

Starting at the wide end, carefully roll up the chicken trying to keep all of the filling in. If any squeezes out, just stuff it back in with your fingers. Use toothpicks or spaghetti (broken into 3" pieces) to stake it into place. Season the tops of the chicken lightly with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, add the jar of sauce to your baking dish. Scatter over a generous pinch of red pepper flakes, optional. Nestle each chicken roll in the sauce spreading them out evenly across the dish.

Bake for 20 minutes, if normal sized breasts, 25 if they are the really large kind. Remove and layer the top of the chicken with mozzarella. Put back in the oven on the highest rack and bake another 8 minutes or until the top of the mozzarella has begun to turn golden. If need be, you can kick the broiler on to help it along.

Remove and let cool for 5-8 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Halibut Ceviche with Mango, Avocado, and Tomato

So it's true. You really can toss raw fish with lemon or lime juice, let it hang out in the fridge, and eat it hours later without going to the hospital.

Of course I've eaten ceviche before in restaurants but the idea of making it at home kind of geeked me out. And then Giada, with all three thousand of her white teeth gleaming at me, made it in a recent episode and I knew I had to break down and try it.

It was delicious. Though I will say it was kind of a lot of work for a 'no cook' recipe (full disclosure - anything involving squeezing multiple lemons and limes is a lot of work to me. I have wimpy hands.)

I subbed mango for half of the tomatoes called for and added lime zest to the lemon zest. And I served it on homemade tostadas instead of with chips.

Perfect summer meal when you don't want to 'cook' anything. As long as you've got a citrus press nearby.

Halibut Ceviche with Mango, and Avocado and Tomato

*adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis


  • One 10-ounce halibut fillet, skinned and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 to 4 large limes)
  • Zest of 1 small lemon
  • Zest of 1 small lime
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salad (to toss ceviche with when ready):

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 large limes)
  • 1 teaspoon agave
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 green onions, pale green and white parts only, finely sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 store bought tortilla shells or tostada shells, for serving (or to make your own - just brush tortillas lightly with oil, season with salt and bake at 425 for 10 minutes until golden flipping once halfway through) 


For the ceviche: In an 8-by-8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish, mix together the halibut, lemon juice, lime juice, lemon and lime zest, salt and pepper. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 3 hours, stirring halfway through the refrigeration time to distribute the marinade.
For the salad (assemble once the ceviche is ready): In a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, lime juice, agave, salt and pepper until smooth. Add the green onions, tomatoes, mango, avocado, jalapeno and cilantro or parsley. Toss until coated.
Drain the ceviche (discard citrus marinade) and carefully toss with the salad.
Spoon into tortilla shells or tostada shells, garnish with extra green onions or cilantro (or parsley.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Honey Lemon Chicken - and we have a house!

Well hello there.

I've missed you. Actually that's a lie. I haven't missed a whole lot in the past two months. I've been obsessively trying to close on a house. In fact closing on this house was much like hopping on a ride at Disney Land that lasted 2 months longer than you thought it would. And made you puke a lot. And gave you gray hair and made you eat bars and bars of dark chocolate with copious amounts of red wine. And made you try weird carnival like foods like Texas Red Chili which made you thank God you didn't normally have an urge to try such things.

Anyway it's finally done. I'm a home owner again. And over the moon about it, though still slightly stunned.

Let's get back to the cooking.

I made a couple things during this time of extended stress worth sharing. One of them was a take on Ina Garten's Lemon Chicken. I made mine with boneless skinless chicken breasts 'cuz that's what I had y'all!' and added a bit of honey because sugar seemed to help out with the stress.

In fact at one point during all of this I was eating so much chocolate in the afternoon I began to seek a little variety - adding dried cherries to my routine and alternating them with salted roasted almonds sort of like a fat man's granola. Like I said it was stressful. I put on a couple pounds. Even almost had boobs for half a second.

ANYWAY. The chicken. Damn good. I recommend it during times of stress or not. Great entertaining dish 'cause it's pretty. And easy. And Ina Garten-y.

Good to see y'all again.

Honey Lemon Chicken
*slightly adapted from Ina Garten
*serves 4, easily adapted if you can do math (which I can't)


  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (Ina reccos 2 heaping tablespoons, chopped)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey (my addition)
  • pinch red pepper flakes (my addition)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves plus extra for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6 to 8 ounces each) CAN USE SKINLESS BUT WATCH COOKING TIME
  • 1 lemon


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don't allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, red pepper, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a greased 9 by 12-inch baking dish.
Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (25 MINUTES IF USING SKINLESS/CUTLETS, COVERING WITH FOIL AFTER 15 MINUTES IF STARTING TO BROWN TOO MUCH BC OF THE HONEY), depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn't browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot with the pan juices and additional thyme for garnish.
Serve over rice or couscous.