Jacques Pepin’s Yukon Gold Potatoes

Jacque Pepin's Potatoes

My understanding of the origin of this recipe is that in 2007 Jacques Pepin made this delicious Yukon Gold potato recipe on Rachel Rays show.   They quickly became famous.  And I can tell you why:  they are damn good! Seriously.

What makes them so good?  They simmer in chicken stock and butter  and those ingredients are absorbed into the potatoes giving each little tot incredible flavor.  Then they are browned on each side – add more to the dish’s flavor profile.  But let me tell you this:  Should you decide you don’t want to go through the second step of browning the potatoes, you will still be rewarded with a wonderful potato side dish.  Known forever as Jacques Pepin Potatoes.

Diva Entertains Potatoes Cooking

*If you use regular chicken broth, taste the dish before you salt it.  It may not need additional salting.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Diva Entertains Wild Rice Undressed

Whenever I’m asked to bring a dish to potluck or luncheon this is dish I bring.  It never fails to win raves.  It’s easy to do and can be made a day ahead – just don’t dress it with a vinaigrette until you are ready to serve.  Although most bottled ‘Italian’ style salad dressings will work well here, I think the very best dressing for this chicken and wild rice salad, by far my favorite is the Maple Vinaigrette that my friend, Kim, shared with me.  She is a fabulous cook and has shared many of her wonderful recipes with me.  This particular vinaigrette is extremely easy to make – you’ll make it over and over again once you try it.

Although you can easily make this chicken from a rotisserie chicken which will save you time, my preferred way (when I have the time) is to take boneless chicken breasts, cut them into bite-size pieces, and saute them in olive oil and with dried spices such as basil and oregano.

The top picture is what the salad looks like without dressing, immediately below it is dressed with the Maple Vinaigrette:

Diva Entertains Wild Rice Dressed

Chicken and Wild Rice Salad

Serves 6

  • 1 pkg. of Uncle Bens Original Recipe (not ‘fast cooking) Wild Rice
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts**, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp. basil and oregano*
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup of pecans, toasted then chopped

  1. Make the packaged wild rice according to package directions.  Cook and then let cool 20 minutes.
  2. Spray a skillet with non-stick spray.  Add olive oil and turn heat to medium-high.  When the oil shimmers add the chicken.  Sprinkle the chicken with the basil and oregano.  Let cook 2 minutes and then stir.  Chicken should be done in about 4-5 minutes.  Cut into a piece (one of the larger ones) and check to make sure it isn’t pink inside.  Remove from heat and season with the salt and pepper.
  3. In a bowl combine the rice, chicken, cherries, green onions and pecans***.  Refrigerate until needed.  Bring to room temperature before serving and dress with vinaigrette 20 minutes prior to serving.

Maple Vinaigrette (Bon Appetit, 2002)

You will only need about 1/4 of this recipe for this salad.  Save leftover vinaigrette for another use (it’s delicious on a lettuce salad too!).

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender until emulsified. Or, add all ingredients to a medium sized bowl and whisk to blend.  Then gradually whisk in oil until mixture thickens.

*Pat the chicken dry before you cut it.  Wet chicken steams as you saute instead of developing a nice sear that you want for flavor and looks.

**Don’t worry if you don’t have both.  Use whatever you have on hand, or just salt and pepper.*

***To toast pecans preheat your oven to 350F.  Spread the pecan on a baking sheet and cook about 4 minutes.  Nuts can go from toasted to burnt in a matter of minutes so the first time you make these watch your pecans carefully.

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Wasabi Salmon on Asian Vinaigrette Dressed Spinach

Diva Entertains Wasabi Salmon

This may well be my favorite salmon recipe of all times.  It tastes delicious, looks beautiful and is a cinch to make.   Because of the brown sugar in the marinade the fish develops a gorgeous and fabulous tasting exterior while, as long as it is cooked properly, the interior is tender and moist.  The typical rule of cooking fish is that a 1″ piece of fish requires 10 minutes of cooking time.  Thinner that that – shave off a couple of minutes.  Thicker? Add a few more.

And don’t be scared by the wasabi – the fish is not at all ‘hot’.  The delicious Ginger-Garlic Mayonnaise is the only part of the dish where, if you want it to be, it can be hot.  However, you would need to add more Wasabi than then the recipe below calls for if you want to heat things up.  Still a bit nervous?  Use less Wasabi than the recipe calls for.

Diva Entertains Wasabi Salmon with Sauce - Copy

The Asian Vinaigrette is used both to marinate the fish and to dress the salad (once it is made you divide it so that you have some dedicated to the fish and some to the salad) – that’s a time saver!

wasabi salmon - wasabi

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Chocolate Malt Pudding

Diva Entertains Chocolate Malted Pudding

My husband loves a good milkshake.  And its all because of the ‘malt’ powder.  So when I started making desserts with malt in them (see Chocolate Malted Cookies) he was in heaven.  I recently came across a recipe for Chocolate Malt Pudding  and decided I had to give it a try.  The recipe did not disappoint!  Great chocolate malt taste with a velvety texture.  If you’ve never made homemade chocolate pudding (see Homemade Dark Chocolate Pudding) you are in for a real treat.  Not only does the homemade stuff far surpass anything store bought – but it is EASY to make!  Aside from a few minutes of constant stirring there’s nothing to it!

Chocolate Malted Pudding (adapted from Taste of Home magaine, April/May 2010)

Serves 6 (or 4 generously)

  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder (NOT the chocolate powder)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder*
  • 2 cups milk (fat-free, 1% or whole)
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • whipped cream, to serve
  • malted milk balls, chopped (for decoration)
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the first five ingredients (through cornstarch).  Whisk in milk until smooth.
  2. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.  Cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove the heat and stir in the chocolate and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Transfer to dessert dishes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
  5. To serve, garnish  each serving with whipped cream and chopped malted milk balls.

*Espresso/coffee deepens the chocolate taste.  However, if you don’t have any and you’d prefer not to purchase it you can just leave it out.

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Tilapia with Scallions and Black Bean Sauce

Diva Entertains Black Bean Sauced Tilapia

From a young girl through my teens, you couldn’t get me to eat fish on my own. (Yes – there were plenty of times I sat at the table long after dinner was over with a plate of some type of fish staring at me.  But I couldn’t leave the table until I ate least ate some of it.  Undoubtedly, my parents always won that game).

Now I can’t eat enough of it!  Unfortunately we cannot get fresh fish where I live.  So frozen fish it is and one such fish that we eat quite frequently is Tilapia.  The frozen variety is of high quality and very reasonably priced.  It has mild white flesh that takes beautifully to sauces (or a simple squeeze of a lemon).

I typically make blackened Tilapia or Tilapia with a Parmesan crust and lemon sauce.   I’m always on the look-out for new ways to prepare it and this intrigued me by the short list of ingredients including the main ingredient, Chinese black bean garlic sauce.  I’ve never cooked with it although I love it in recipes that I’ve ordered while eating out.  So I decided to give the recipe a try.  The results were far better than I could have hoped for!  Simply delicious!

Tilapia with Scallions and Black Bean Sauce (adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, April/May 2010)

Serves 4

  • 3 Tbsp. Chinese black bean garlic sauce or black bean chile sauce*
  • 1 Tbsp.  oyster sauce*
  • 2 tsp. lower-sodium sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Asian chicle sauce, such as Sriracha* (optional – use if you like your food spicy)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. Tilapia fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  1. Cut the Tilapia into 2-inch sections as shown below:Diva Entertains How to Cut Tilapia
  2. In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients except for the Tilapia.  Add the fish and stir gently to coat.
  3. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
  4. Heat the oil in a well-seasoned wok or 12″ nonstick skillet.  When the oil shimmers add the fish all at once, distributing it evenly around the pan. Cook without stirring for 3 minutes.
  5. Add the scallion and stir gently.  Cook, stirring occasionally and gently, until the thickets part of a piece of fish is opaque throughout (cut to check), 2 to 3 minutes more.

*This can be found in the international aisle of your supermarket, with the Asian foods.

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New York Crumb Cake Recipe

Diva Entertains New York Crumb Cake

Everyone should have an easy yet delicious coffee cake recipe in their repertoire such as this New York Crumb Cake recipe.  A ‘New York ‘ crumb cake refers to a simple sour cream cake  topped with *lots* of cinnamon streusel.

This recipe comes together quickly. My only caution is about baking time.  This cake has a lovely, moist base but, like any cake, when left in the oven too long it quickly goes from moist to dry.  And nothing disappointments like a dry cake.  So start checking with a toothpick after 45 minutes.  Better to take the cake out with a few tiny crumbs sticking to the toothpick than over-baking it.

New York-Style Crumb Cake (adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2010)

Serves 12

Topping

  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, warm
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

  1. Melt butter in a large bowl.  Add both sugars, cinnamon and salt and stir to blend.
  2. Add flour and mix with fork until moist clumps form (mixture may look slightly wet).  Set aside.

Cake:

  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.  Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Using electric mixer, beat room-temperature butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition.
  3. Add sour cream and vanilla extract to batter until just incorporated.
  4. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Add mixture to batter in three additions, blending until just incorporated after each addition.
  5. Transfer cake batter to prepared baking dish; spread batter evenly with rubber spatula or offset spatula. Drop crumb topping over the batter by handfuls covering completely (topping will be thick).  Very gently pat the crumb into the cake so it adheres.
  6. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs and topping is golden brown and slightly crisp, 45-1 hour (start checking at 45 minutes). Cool cake in dish on rack at least 30 minutes.

Can be made one day ahead.  Serve slightly warmed or at room temperature.

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Broccolini – My New Favorite Vegetable

Diva Entertains Broccolini
I have to admit it.  Although I love having broccolini at a restaurant, I stayed clear of making it at home because, basically, I had no clue how to make it.  As I would pass by it in the produce section I would hesitantly linger…and then keep on walking.  However, a month ago, I decide to look at a few recipes and face my fear head on since they looked so easy. Believe me, they only looked that way.

It took four tries until I nailed it.  And I was darn close to giving up.  But I just knew that once I figured it out it would be a perfect weeknight vegetable (it takes less than 10 minutes from prep to table).  And a little something different to serve to my guests.

The first 3 times I scorched the broccolini, tinging it with brown and obviously giving it a burnt favor.  One of those times, while following one recipe’s explicit directions and salting the water with 1/2 tsp. salt, the finished dish ended up tasting like a salt lick.  I decided to go with my gut feel and salt after it cooked. It worked.

Lessons learned:  Everyone’s range (like their oven) is a little different than the next person’s.  What is medium on one range could be cooler or hotter on another.   So, err on the conservative time and remove the cover after 4 minutes.  If you have considerable water still in the pan leave the cover on one more minute, if not, leave the top off and let the water evaporate (about 30 seconds, maybe less).  But have the garlic and oil at the ready, because the moment it does evaporate you want to stir in the oil and garlic, cook until fragrant, and then take off the heat immediately.  If it doesn’t work out perfectly you’ll know what you need to adjust next time (either it scorched so you’ll take the top off the skillet sooner or it was a tad waterlogged and you’ll leave it on a bitter longer).  And do give it one more try.   It’s worth it.

Broccolini

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 package broccolini* (1 to 2 bunches depending on size)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 T. olive oil

Bring water to boil in a large skillet.  Add broccolini, turn heat to medium low, and cover with lid.  Cook for 4 or 5 minutes, remove lid and let the remaining water evaporate.  The second it does, add the garlic and oil and cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring or turning with tongs (my preference).  Immediately remove from heat and lightly salt.  Plate and serve.

* I am only able to buy it pre-packaged in my immediate area. (Nope – not a metropolitan city by a long shot)

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Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

Diva Entertains Mustard Cream Sauce

A friend told me about this Bon Appetit recipe from 1998 and said that it had become one of her favorite chicken dishes of all time.  And I can understand why! It is, in a nutshell, “scrumptious”!  Between the tender chicken, crunchy crust and the delectable mustard cream sauce  – what’s not to love?

Further – with a bit of advance preparation the actual cooking time is only minutes.  Here’s the game plan for the prep:  1) Make the pistachio-panko crust in food processor ahead of time (up to a day) and keep well covered (ziplock bag would be perfect or plastic wrap secured tightly over a bowl).  2) Make the mustard sauce before you cook the chicken.  This can also be done a day in advance – just keep covered and refrigerated. Reheat before serving.

Some keys to success: 1) Although you are going to make the crust in a food processor – don’t chop too finely.  You want to see little bits of the green pistachios in the crust.  Not only for the visual contrast but also for the terrific crunch. 2) Pound the chicken to a 1/4- 1/3″ even thickness.  This way they will cook evenly and quickly which is important – you don’t want a burned crust and nuts tend to brown very quickly. 3) Don’t add salt to the crust mixture – the pistachios will contribute enough on their own. 4) Use Panko, not regular breadcrumbs, for the crust mixture.  Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb that is extremely dry and has much larger flakes.  Which results in a bigger ‘crunch’.

Diva Entertains Pistachio Crusted Chicken

Pistachio Crusted Chicken (adapted from Bon Appetit, June 1998)

Serves 4

  • 1 cup shelled, raw, pistachios (about 4 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil (or 2 tsp. dried)*
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh dill (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 T. olive oil, divided

  1. In a food processor combine nuts, Panko and herbs.  Pulse (using on/off turns) until the pistachios look like very small pebbles (so not finely ground).  Put mixture in a large plate or shallow dish.
  2. Pat the chicken breast dry. Pound the breasts 1/4″ – 1/3″ thickness (If the breasts are very large cut into 2 pieces).  Spread one side of the breast with the Dijon mustard and then put that side down in the panko mixture.  Press down to ensure that mixture adheres.  Flip chicken breast over and pat mixture over the remaining side.
  3. Spray a 12″ pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pan and place over medium heat until the oil shimmers.  Then add 1/2 of the chicken breasts to the pan, mustard side down.  Cook for 2 – 4  minutes and take a peek (at 2 minutes) to see if they browned nicely.  When they do (don’t let them burn) turn them over and finish cooking them, another 5 – 8 minutes. Remove to plate and tent with foil.
  4. Remove pan from heat and, with wadded up paper towels, wipe out the pan.  You don’t want to have any burned bits in the pan.  Spray again with non-stick spray and then return to heat and add the remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Cook remaining chicken as described above.

Mustard Cream Sauce

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots**
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or 1/4 tsp. dried)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill (or 1/4 tsp. dried)

  1. Boil white wine and shallots in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until liquid just about evaporates, a few minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-high.  Add whipping cream and simmer 2 minutes.  Add Dijon mustard and herbs.  Simmer another 2 minutes to blend flavors.  Season sauce with salt and pepper.

*  Herbs, fresh or dried, can get pricey.  Feel free to use only basil or only dill.

**Shallots are a relative of the onion but have a milder, sweeter taste.  They are often used, finely chopped, in salad dressings and sauces.