Monday, August 31, 2009

On/Off Recipe: Gabba-Gabba-Donna Hay!

I have a love for magazines that the digital world will never quite take the place of. There's something really satisfying about curling up with a furl of printed pages that a laptop cannot capture, and to be truthful, I hope books and magazines never go the way of 8-tracks and sock garters. That being said, one of my favorite food magazines is Donna Hay, its namesake being the Austrailian equivalent of Ruth Reichl or Martha Stewart, in terms of her ability to present food and lifestyle in a visually appealing, don't-you-just-envy-my-life kind of way. The food is simple and familiar, the production quality of the photos are divine, and it's just a really solid magazine full of foundation cooking recipes that's worth a free flip-thru when you're browsing (aka, loitering) in the Borders magazine aisle. It was a great inspiration piece, whose breakfast dishes and a roasted tarragon chicken recipe pushed me into the kitchen, so with the fury and fire of the Ramones, I said, hey-ho... let's go!

Be honest, it's way better than Wheaties - photo by Wasabi Prime

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Especially when it's covered in hollandaise sauce. I was egged-on (har har) by Donna's Eggs Florentine photo and recipe. I liked the idea of combining the poached eggs with spinach, as runny eggs and wilted greens are an edible experiment gone horribly right. Confession time: I didn't follow St. Donna's recipe to the letter. I skipped the toast and added some bits of pan-crisped proscuitto to the wilted spinach. And even more of a serious foodie trespass, I cheated on the hollandaise, going with a shortcut from Bon App├ętit magazine, for a "mock hollandaise" sauce. Don't chase me out of food blogdom with pitchforks, people -- it was still a savory rich sauce, the eggs were poached to lovely gooey-ness, and it was served within the walls of our humble household, where Brock won't look down upon me if I take a shortcut now and then, God bless him!

Donna Hay magazine - totally worth the import price - photos (of magazine) by Wasabi Prime

I attempted to make up for my shortcut sins and made her Chicken with Mushrooms and Tarragon recipe for dinner. For something that looks like it would take several hours, it's relatively fast. It uses skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, which makes the finished chickadee quite moist and tender. I know it's tempting to substitute this recipe with breast meat since it's low-fat, but it's also low-flavor, and can get dry as all get-out, so don't skimp on this one, as a lot of the richness and flavor will come from the chicken.

Winner winner, tarragon chicken dinner - photo by Wasabi Prime

The final cooked dish would have been enough on its own, but I was leering at the kale chips on Lorna Yee's Cookbook Chronicles , featuring a recipe by way of chef Dan Barbar. I made a last minute decision, confirmed by the two-for-one special on kale at the store. Once separating the dry, papery leaves from the tough center rib, the leaves were tossed with a barely-there drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt/pepper before baking. It took a couple of batches per head of kale, as the leaves got all crispety-crunchety when they had ample space around them for the heat to scorch the bejeebus out of them.

Hot chicks and crispy veggie chips - Photos by Wasabi Prime

The final result produced a satisfying meal for a home cook like myself who inevitably colors outside the recipe lines, sometimes to much FoodFail. To entice others to stay on-recipe, I included the Donna Hay recipes below. I think you'll be as pleased as I was with the results, as it made for a great Oh Donna weekend!

Eggs Florentine
4 free-range eggs
20g butter
120g baby spinach leaves
Toasted sourdough or rye bread and cracked black pepper, to serve

Lemon Hollandaise
150g butter, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 free-range egg yolks
Sea salt flakes

To make the lemon hollandaise, place the butter and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for 2-3 minutes or until melted and bubbling. Place the egg yolks and salt in the bowl of a small food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the hot butter mixture and process until thick. Set aside and keep warm.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the eggs and cook for 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water. Carefully peel and set aside. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes or until just wilted. Top the toast with the spinach and eggs. Spoon over hollandaise and sprinkle with pepper to serve. Serves 4.

Chicken with mushroom and tarragon
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 X 150g chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
300g speck* or flat pancetta, chopped
8 sprigs tarragon
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon chili flakes
200g Swiss brown or Portobello mushrooms, halved (4 large portobellos, sliced into bite-sized pieces)
1/3 cup (80ml) dry sherry
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) single (pouring) cream

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (355 degrees F). Heat oil in a heatproof heavy-based baking dish over high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin-side down, for 3 minutes or until browned. Remove from dish and keep warm. Add the speck and tarragon and cook for 3-5 minutes or until golden. Add the garlic, chilli, mushroom and pepper and cook for 5-8 minutes or until golden. Add sherry and cream, return chicken to the dish, cover with aluminium foil and roast for 15 minutes. Remove foil and roast for a further 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serves 6-8. *Speck is smoked pork, usually sold in a slab from delicatessens.

* Post Script: Thanks to Foodie View for posting both breakfast and lunch, as inspired by Donna Hay! Additional delicious thanks to Tastespotting for putting the seared chicken thigh pic on their site! Additional thanks still to Serious Eats' Photograzing, for doing a quadruple whammy post of pics on their om-nommy site.

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  1. I love cooking with skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. They are nearly impossible to dry out or otherwise mess up, and they are sooo good. Yours look great!

    How did you like the kale chips? I have been meaning to try them ever since I saw a recipe for them on ( - People have raved about them on that site.

  2. The kale chips still keep their bitter flavor which I know some people aren't wild about, but baking them gives them a great chip-like consistency, a bit smoky, and a hefty sprinkle of salt makes everything better. Lorna Yee suggests dipping them in a sauce, which I think would be a grand idea. Definitely use a small amount of oil when baking; I put on too much during one batch and it got a bit wilty, but the barely oiled ones were just perfect.

  3. Hey Hey Donna, won't you be my magazine girl? We all love you so.

  4. I have a cookbook about Donna Hay and I really like her recipes, they're quick and fresh. Those eggs are great for brunch. Thanks!

  5. Your egg florentine looks really awesome. Great shot. The other photos look good too. There's nothing wrong with adapting recipes. And I love to use shortcuts too. You'd probably know that already. Great post Wasabi. It's in my Today's Top 9 list:)

  6. This chicken looks awesome. I like using thighs w/bone and skin--the most flavorful pieces, I think. Plus tarragon and speck...sounds perfect.

  7. If I don't get a chance to individually respond, thanks to everyone who comments, I really appreciate you all taking the time to do it. And if you see Donna Hay's magazine, it's totally worth the extra bucks to pick it up. Or at least annoy the bookstore while you peer thru it... ;)


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