A couple weeks ago I wrote about microwave cooking and how it’s been a bit disappointing for me when it comes to creative cooking.
I got a variety of emails and calls about using the microwave, including a call from Bev, of Belleville, who told me about her microwave Jelly Bean Bark recipe, I had to laugh at the simplicity of it. It’s an Easter recipe from Taste of Home she’s used for years, she said. She buys colored vanilla melts or uses food coloring (the recipe doesn’t) to make pink and yellow bark, adding coordinating jelly beans. Sometimes she even swirls the color into the bark. Sounds like fun, and easy to make. Kids will love it.
Plus, I got a message from Sam, who said he’s been making the Microwave Chicken Piccata from Epicurious.com for about six months. He said it’s easy to prepare and delicious. So, I’m including the 2016 recipe by Nick Kindelsperger here. See what you think.
There’s more to brie ...
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A couple decades ago, if I went to a party and a wheel of warm brie with crackers was one of the appetizers, we were all impressed.
Today, brie has become a lot more, shall we say, ordinary? There’s more to be done with brie, so I started looking for easy party recipes that use it and found two that had me salivating: Dried Fruit Brie Bites and Basic Baked Brie Dip. Both are simple to make, and don’t bawk at the cost of brie, it’s just as expensive as other premium cheeses you might put out at a party. While you won’t serve it often, when you do, look for the triple-cream variety.
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Dried Fruit Brie Bites
1 wheel brie, cut into 8 wedges
8 puff pastry squares*
Dried fruit of choice
Complementary jam of choice
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin tray with nonstick spray.
Working one at a time, place puff pastry squares into the tin letting the corners hang over the sides.
Place a piece of dried fruit at the bottom, add a wedge of brie and top with a spoonful of jam.
Fold the corners of the puff pastry over and twist them at the top. Brush the puff pastry with egg wash and bake until golden, approximately 20-25 minutes.
*If you cannot find puff pastry squares, simply roll our a sheet of puff pastry and cut into 4-by-4-inch squares.
Basic Baked Brie Dip
8 ounces triple cream (room temperature) brie, rind removed
3 ounces mascarpone, softened
2 teaspoons minced thyme
1 teaspoon thinly sliced chives
Salt and pepper to taste
CINNAMON-SPICED CANDIED PECANS:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a small shallow baking dish. Set aside.
3. Place brie, mascarpone, thyme, chives, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl and mix together until fully incorporated.
4. Pour and evenly spread mixture into the baking dish and set aside.
5. Pour pecans into a skillet and place over medium heat. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over pecans followed by 2 to 3 teaspoons water (you want just enough water to wet cinnamon-sugar and coat pecans).
6. Toss until pecans are evenly coated. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until coating has dried and pecans have toasted.
7. Sprinkle candied pecans over brie mixture and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until dip is bubbly and gooey.
8. Allow dip to cool for 5 minutes before serving with crostini and green apple slices. Serves 5 to 7.
Microwave Chicken Piccata
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
4 (1/4-inch-thick) chicken cutlets (about 12 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 thin slices lemon
2 teaspoons drained capers
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped parsley
Arrange asparagus in an even layer in 8-by-8 microwave-proof baking dish.
Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then arrange in an even layer over asparagus.
Pour lemon juice over and top with lemon slices and capers.
Cover with plastic wrap, poke a small hole in the center, and microwave on high 2 minutes. Remove from microwave, flip and rotate chicken pieces, re-wrap, and microwave on high another 2 minutes. Pierce chicken with a paring knife; if juices don't run clear, continue microwaving at 10-second intervals.
Transfer chicken, asparagus and lemon slices to a serving platter; immediately whisk butter into liquid in baking dish until melted. Stir in parsley, then pour over chicken to serve.
Note: If your asparagus is thin, it’s not necessary to cut it in half. This recipe was developed using a 1200-watt microwave. If your microwave wattage is lower, you may have to increase cooking time.
Jelly Bean Bark
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 pounds white candy coating, coarsely chopped
2 cups small jelly beans
Line a 15-by-10-by-1-inch (jellyroll) pan with foil; grease foil with butter.
In a microwave, melt candy coating; stir until smooth. Spread into prepared pan. Top with jelly beans, pressing to adhere. Let stand until set.
Cut or break bark into pieces. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2 pounds.
Notes from a Taste of Home reader: I used a 14-ounce package of orange-colored vanilla candy disks, 1 cup roasted peanuts and about 1/3 cup finely cut-up flavored gumdrops. Plus, after melting the candy disks, I added 1/2 teaspoon orange extract. I bought regular-sized jelly beans. I chilled the bark in my refrigerator to really allow the candy to set.