Cold weather has truly set in here in North Carolina, so we’ve been hungering for dishes that will warm our insides. One of our favorites is Jerry’s version of curried chicken and potatoes. This one-pot meal is sure to leave you with a warm belly, and its mix of red pepper flakes and curry powder will add some heat to your palate as well.

Curried chicken and potatoes

½ tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

3 split chicken breasts, skin removed

1 medium onion, diced (approximately 1 ½ cups)

4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ½ tablespoons red curry powder

4 cups potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes

Chicken stock

8 teaspoons cold water

8 teaspoons cornstarch

Hot, cooked white rice

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Combine paprika, salt, pepper and cumin in a small bowl. Spread spice mixture evenly on all sides of the chicken. Brown chicken in olive oil, approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from Dutch oven and set aside.

Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and curry powder to the Dutch oven, and saute until the onion begins to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add potatoes, then place chicken on top of the potatoes. Add chicken stock until the chicken is almost covered. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove chicken and cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Add cornstarch to the water and whisk until well combined, then add cornstarch mixture to the Dutch oven. Stir until thickened. Return chicken to the Dutch oven and stir to combine.

Serve over hot, cooked rice.

Chocolate mousse

January 23, 2009

Like many couples the world over, we plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a few weeks with chocolate and a nice bottle of champagne. Yes, it’s a bit cliché to mark this particular occasion in that way, but we truly believe that any day is a good day for chocolate and champagne, and we’ll use any excuse to indulge.

Jerry has been working on his mousse recipe for years, and he finally has achieved a version that he’s completely satisfied with (that’s very unusual for a culinary perfectionist like him). There really is no other way to describe this dessert than heavenly. The mix of semisweet and bittersweet chocolates gives it an incredibly rich flavor without being overly sweet, and the texture is light and airy. And the best part? It’s easy to make.

So for anyone hoping to impress their significant other on February 14th, we recommend whipping up a batch of this delectable chocolate mousse, topping it with homemade whipped cream and garnishing it with a strawberry and some fresh mint. It’s guaranteed to be a Valentine’s Day treat that your beloved won’t soon forget.

Chocolate mousse

4 tablespoons butter

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

3 eggs, separated (see note)

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pinch salt

1 ½ cups whipping cream

Homemade whipped cream, for topping (recipe follows)

In a double boiler (see note), melt the butter and chocolate until smooth, whisking occasionally to ensure even melting and prevent scorching.

In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy and light yellow in color. With the chocolate still in the double boiler, whisk in the egg mixture until smooth. Remove from heat.

Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold whites into chocolate 1/3 at a time.

Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipping cream into chocolate 1/3 at a time.

Spoon the mousse into individual serving containers (we use wine glasses for a romantic touch) and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.

Makes approximately 8 servings.

Notes: This recipe contains raw eggs. Please use caution when consuming raw eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. An estimated one in every 20,000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella, a type of bacteria that can cause diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting. Healthy people recover quickly, but young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems may develop severe, even life threatening infections. To reduce this risk, use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

If you don’t own a double boiler, it’s easy to make one. A double boiler consists of two pans that fit together snugly – the top pan holds the food; the bottom holds about an inch of boiled or simmering water. For this recipe, we use a large glass bowl (big enough to hold the finished batch of mousse) placed atop a round Dutch oven. Please note that the top bowl gets very hot, so make sure to use oven mitts or pot holders when handling. Also, be sure to monitor the amount of water in the lower part of the double boiler, as it can quickly evaporate.

Homemade whipped cream

1/2 cup whipping cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, combine ingredients until thick and creamy.

Makes approximately 4 servings.