My family is Catholic (with the stray Lutheran or two), so when my Grandfather Mike passed away back in ’76, a mass was said for him. That has turned into a yearly tradition which has been going strong ever since. As other relatives have passed away over the years, they have been added to the remembrance.
The mass is held at my parent’s church (which also used to be my grandparents) and afterwards, everyone heads over to the farm to BS and eat lunch. So I thought it would be fitting to use this as a post on the one year (-ish) anniversary of starting this blog. The reasoning is pretty simple. Family gatherings like these have been a major influence on my life, both culinarily and communally. I look forward to this event each and every year because it’s one of the few times that I get to see a large portion of my family. That and the food. The Czecks love to eat. And they love to eat good food.
I just want to point out that the food has been scaled back significantly as the years have gone by. The food this year completely covered the kitchen table and the desserts took up a decent portion of a counter.
As noted in a previous post, my nephew Cole helped me make a kale salad (I really promise this post is coming soon). My aunt Rosie (and hubby Gary) went to the State Fair this year and she sat through a twenty minute demonstration in order to get this wild rice salad recipe (at least I think this is the recipe). I’m glad she was patient because it was very good. It had avocado, steak, wild rice, and all sorts of other goodies in it. One of my other aunties, Mary Ann, had a freezer full of pheasant, so she used this opportunity to get rid of some of it. Much to everyone’s delight I might add. She fried off the pieces, made a pan gravy, and finished it off in the crockpot. She had some of the younger kids come up to her and tell her how good it was. It was really cute. Some of those kids have never had pheasant before. It warmed my heart that they were willing to try something completely new and even more that they liked it.
Mom was the one who made the sausages. She picked up five pounds of the polish at Thielen’s (as usual) and it all disappeared by the time everyone was through eating. It really is that good. I can’t talk up that meat locker enough.
I think there may have been a riot if my sis, Chell, didn’t make coffee cake. (I’ve posted the recipe before.) I don’t even care that she didn’t make the poppy seed version because she sent a whole apple one home with Lindz and me. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m very easily bribed with food. It’s even easier when it’s really good homemade food.
I was joking with my cousin Jon about the popcorn balls that he brought. I asked him if he was trying to class up the Czeck gatherings by drizzling chocolate over them. He just smiled sheepishly and chuckled. Good enough of an answer because they were a chocolate-caramel delight.
I’ve tried for years to get Mom to sit down, relax for a minute, and grab a bite to eat. But she is having none of it. At this point, I ask the token question of if she needs help and then let her do her thing. For the record, I do gladly help when she asks for it.
As a final note, I am endlessly amused watching people on the farm. It started out many years ago with my cousins. They would run around like wild animals crawling over the hay bales, running through the woods, sitting on the tractors, chasing the cats, mooing at the cows, and spooking the chickens. Or what I would call a normal day. Now that my cousins are older and have kids of their own, I get to watch the next generation do the same thing. And you know what? It still hasn’t gotten old.
Easily one of my all-time favorite preparations of chicken is Chicken Kiev. Yes, even those overly processed ones that can be found in the freezer section. So imagine my surprise and delight when I found a recipe in My New Favorite Cookbook™! That’s The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook by the way. This is great on another level too. My wife, Lindsay, LOVES Chicken Kiev as well, especially with a side of wild rice and cottage cheese. So this was a complete win for a recipe.
A quick note before I delve into the cooking. There are aspects of this recipe that are fairly tricky. I will try to explain what I did, and what I will do differently next time. Trust me. There will be a next time. Also there is a lot of prep work and waiting involved, so plan accordingly. We didn’t eat that night until 10:30, but it was worth it. Even with turning the entire kitchen into a hazmat zone:
Once again this is adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook (p. 67-68) and I will type it out the way I did it. I still strongly suggest purchasing the book because it is well worth it.
Ingredients – Herb Butter
- 8 Tbs unsalted Butter, softened
- 1 Tbs Lemon juice
- about 1 Tbs white Onion, minced
- 1 Tbs Parsley
- 1/2 tsp Tarragon
- 3/4 tsp Kosher salt (or 3/8 tsp table salt)
- 1/8 tsp Black Pepper
- 4 slices white Sandwich Bread, torn into quarters
- Table Salt and Black Pepper
- 2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
- 4 (8 oz) boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed
- 1 C unbleached all-purpose (AP) Flour
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp Mustard
For the Herb Butter: Mix the ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined. Form into a 3″ square on a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.
For the Chicken: Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat to 300 degrees. Add half of the bread to a food processor and pulse until it is coarsely ground, about 16 pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining bread. Add 1/8 tsp table salt and 1/8 tsp pepper to the crumbs. Add the oil and toss until evenly coated. Spread the crumbs on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown and dry, about 25 minutes. Make sure you stir the crumbs a couple of times to prevent burning. Cool to room temperature.
Starting on the thinnest side of a chicken breast, butterfly it by slicing lengthwise halfway up. Do not cut all the way through! Open up the breast to create a single flat cutlet. Put the cutlet between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound, starting in the center, to 1/4″ thickness. The outer edge, pound to an 1/8″ thick. IMPORTANT NOTE: Be very careful when you do this. I ended up getting tears and holes in the breasts which just caused a lot of unnecessary headache when I was trying to stuff the butter. Place the chicken on a work surface and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper. Now unwrap the butter and cut into four rectangular pieces. With the chicken cut side up, place a piece of butter in the center of the bottom half of the breast (a quarter of the way up from the “tip” of the breast). Roll the bottom edge of the chicken over the butter, then fold in the sides and continue rolling to form a nice tight package. Press on the seams to seal everything together. Repeat with the remaining breasts and refrigerate for an hour to allow the edges to seal.
This is what I ended up with:
They look a lot better in the picture than they did in real life.
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate plates. Season the flour with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Season the bread crumbs with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add the mustard to the eggs and whisk to combine. Dredge a chicken roll in the flour, shaking off the excess, then coat with the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off. Coat all sides of the chicken with the bread crumbs, pressing gently so the crumbs adhere in an even layer. Place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining breasts. ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: I placed the chicken into individual aluminum foil boats because I was certain that they would leak and I don’t have a rimmed baking sheet. This worked great. My mom suggested using a cake pan as another approach.
Bake until the center of the chicken registers 160 to 165 degrees, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let rest for 5 and serve!
Roasted acorn squash with butter and brown sugar, wild rice, and chicken kiev. Everything tasted great, but the kiev ended up being a bit salty. I’m pretty sure I over salted the chicken after I butterflyed it. Also, I really only needed about a half cup of the AP flour for the breading. All in all, it was a fun challenge that I look forward to tackling again.