Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mickey Mousing Around in the Kitchen

Just back from spring break, and man, am I EXHAUSTED! As is often the case, I need a vacation to recuperate from my vacation! I actually left last week Wednesday for our PBGV National Specialty in Mesa, AZ, then on Sunday, I hopped on over to sunny southern California to visit The Mouse with my dear friend, Mike, something I haven't done since the Millenium! (I've been to Orlando since then, but not to my beloved Magic Kingdom in Anaheim.) In fact, the last time I was there, California Adventure wasn't even open yet! So it was fun to check them both out this time with our Park Hopper passes. But I was younger and more fit in 2000, and three days tromping around both parks nearly did me in! Now that I'm home again, I wanted a little taste of Disney that would involve less money and physical exertion.

Since I already tried clones of Dole Whip and Bengal Barbecue, I decided to make some treats as an homage to California Adventure upon returning home to New York state. The strange thing is--I never actually sampled these items. We were going to have lunch one day at the Pacific Wharf Café, but the line was WAY too long, and we had Fast Passes to use for Soarin' Over California (my FAVORITE "new" ride--new to me, anyway). So Mike and I enjoyed some delicious noodle bowls and chilled edamame at The Lucky Fortune Cookery. But I regretted not trying some of the savory dishes served in Boudin Bakery sourdough bread bowls at the Pacific Wharf Café. What was I to do but make a couple of them for myself at home?! Of course, I have no reference point of whether my versions were close to the real deals or not, so one of you will have to try them and give me some feedback. In the meantime, we'll call these recipes "inspired by" menu items at Disney's California Adventure.

The first is a spicy twist on a traditional corn chowder that the Pacific Wharf Café calls Santa Rosa Corn Chowder. It's the addition of peppers--hot peppers for kick and sweet roasted red for both flavor and color--that give it that California flair.






Santa Rosa Corn Chowder

1 lb. jowl bacon*, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
1 large red (or orange) pepper, seeded and diced
1 Cubanelle pepper, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
1 can creamed corn
2 lbs. (about 8 smaller) potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 lb. frozen corn
8 oz. roasted red peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
few dashes of hot sauce, to taste

Brown the bacon in a large Dutch oven*. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onions, fresh red pepper and the Cubanelle pepper to the pot and saute until tender, about ten minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Stir in the flour and cook for two minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot the whole time. Add the chicken stock and stir until combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and add the cream, creamed corn, potatoes, frozen corn, roasted red peppers, and the remaining seasonings. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the reserved bacon pieces (or just sprinkle some on top of each bowl), garnish with chopped chives, and serve.

*To make this to serve for vegetarians, sweat the veggies in olive oil, and then do as the Pacific Wharf Café does and top each meat-eater's serving with some julienned ham instead of the jowl bacon that I used. And if all of your eaters are carnivorous but you don't have jowl bacon rattling around your freezer as I did, try frying up maybe a half pound of regular bacon, and sweat the veggies in the bacon fat after you remove and reserve the crispy bacon pieces.

Another item I had hoped to try at the Pacific Wharf Café was the Sonoma Chicken and Apple Salad, also served in a bread bowl. And Disney actually published the recipe for this item. But I made a "cheater" version that I tailored a bit for my tastes. I will post both versions, and you can decide which to make for yourself.

Sonoma Chicken and Apple Salad
Pacific Wharf Café, Disney's California Adventure Park

4 cups water
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 head iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup celery, diced small
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into wedges
2/3 cup honey mustard dressing (your favorite brand)
4 individual-sized bread bowls*
4 leaves Romaine or leaf lettuce
8 fresh chives sprigs, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries

1. In a medium pot, boil 4 cups of water. Add chicken bouillon, stirring until the bouillon is dissolved in the water. Lower heat, and bring to a simmer.
2. Add chicken breast; cover pot and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Put chicken in the refrigerator to cool down.
3. Thinly shred the lettuce; set aside.
4. Dice chicken into 1/4" pieces and put it in a medium-sized bowl. Add walnuts, celery, apple wedges, and honey mustard dressing and toss well.
5. Hollow out the bread bowls; fill with the shredded lettuce. Place one lettuce leaf on the edge and place the chicken salad at the center. Sprinkle the salad with chives and cranberries just before serving.

* Sweet, salty, and crunchy, this salad is a hit at the Pacific Wharf Café, served in bread bowls made in the adjacent Boudin bakery (where a secret family recipe for sourdough dates back to 1850).

Yield: 4 servings

Sonoma Chicken and Apple Salad (My Version)

1 deli chicken, skin removed and deboned, cut into chunks
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup celery, diced small (optional--I hate it!)
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into chunks (I used a large Honeycrisp)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup honey mustard dressing (your favorite brand)
black pepper, to taste

Garnish: 8 fresh chives sprigs, chopped

Serve on top of a pile of shredded lettuce, and to be more authentic, inside a sourdough bread bowl.

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