Summer Stuffed Shells with Creamy Fontina Sauce

Stuffed Shells with Fontina Sauce

Stuffed Shells with Fontina Sauce

This post is sponsored by Cakebread Cellars. Thank you for supporting Nerds with Knives’ sponsors!

Whenever we cook for a crowd, baked pasta is our go-to. All the prep can be done ahead of time, so all that we have to do is pop the pan in the oven, make a quick salad and open the wine. This time of year, the farmer’s market is bursting with early summer vegetables like Swiss chard, baby peas, spring onions and basil. So to celebrate the season, we made our stuffed shells with a mix of our favorite greens and paired them with the most delicious fontina cream sauce. And then popped the corks on a couple of bottles of white wine and enjoyed the sunshine!

Our wine of choice to pair with a beautiful early-summer outdoor dinner is something light with a subtle floral and fruit character. We’ve paired up with Cakebread Cellars’ Napa Valley Chardonnay and our garden peonies opened up just in time to help us celebrate the season.

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Sesame Noodles with Crispy Baked Tofu

Sesame Noodles with Crispy Tofu

Revenge doesn’t have to be the only dish best served cold. We combine crispy baked tofu cubes with cold noodles in a spicy sesame – peanut sauce for a fantastic dinner or picnic recipe.

We’re adopting a new strategy to help us cope with the cold Northeast spring: we’re simply going to pretend that it’s summer. That’s right, readers: the tiki bar has been set out in the garden (which, incidentally, is BLOOMING), we’ve slathered on a healthy layer of SPF50, and we’re putting together all sorts of yummy goodies to take on our next picnic. Yes, it’s perfect weather to take a room-temperature noodle dish out on the deck or to our local park. Okay, all that may not be true, but this recipe is a perfect meal to make when you don’t need to serve up a hot dinner. 

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One-Pan Crispy Chicken with Buttery Lemony Mushroom Orzo

One-Pan Chicken with Buttery Lemony Mushroom Orzo

There’s a reason we make so many one-pan dinners: in a small kitchen, it keeps the oven clutter to a minimum, simplifies the cooking process, and makes clean-up straightforward. The aim, of course, is to get everything properly cooked at the same time: with meat, achieving both the desired Maillard sear (aka; that burnished, dark brown skin) and safe internal temperature; with pasta or grains, getting the texture perfect without overcooking it into a limp mess. Our crispy chicken and orzo dish takes advantage of the pre-oven searing of the chicken and handles the orzo like a risotto, resulting in success on all fronts. The addition of plenty of mushrooms, leeks and spinach turns it into a healthy, one-pot meal.

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Crispy AF, Oven-Fried Sriracha-Honey Wings

Crispy AF, Oven-Fried Sriracha-Honey Chicken Wings

Seriously crispy and coated with a sweet and spicy Sriracha-honey glaze, these oven-baked wings rival fried ones any day. This is game day food done right. 

I’m pretty sure you haven’t come to a site called “Nerds with Knives” expecting sports talk because we are not sporty people. Any yelling and screaming you might hear from our house on a late Sunday afternoon is more likely to be about the crossword puzzle than the N.F.L.  – and, just an aside to Will Shortz at the New York Times, there had better not be too many sports related questions or these two bespectacled nerds will not be happy.

But just because we don’t know a touchdown from a layup doesn’t mean we don’t know game day snacks. That, we have covered.

We got your spicy meatballs, your savory meatballs, your mini shrimp cakes, your spiced and candied peanuts.  And now… these wings.

Truly crispy wings with a sticky, sweet and spicy glaze. And the best part? They’re baked, not fried.

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Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Basil

Chicken Lemon Garlic Basil

This chicken with lemon, garlic and basil – the flavors of an Italian summer – cooks in one pan and gets a delicious crispy skin. 

Even though we are now fully immersed in September, in our neck of the woods yesterday was actually the hottest day of the year so far. The thermometer that we keep by the chicken coop was up to 99ºF (37ºC) by noon, and stayed there until way past dark. Not to sound like a whiner, but that meant that our kitchen was hotter than a three dollar pistol and it was seriously messing with my plans. See, I had been dreaming about making this chicken all summer, and I had already bought all the ingredients that I couldn’t pick from the garden so I just decided to make it anyway, inferno be damned.

This chicken is kind of a variation on one of my favorite dishes of all time, Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro. It has the same incredible combination of crispy skin and tender meat that is just so damn good. But instead of the latin influence, this version is like a summer vacation in Italy, with the flavors of lemon, garlic and fresh basil.

Chicken Lemon Garlic Basil

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Jalapeño Popper Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Jalapeño Popper Stuffed Chicken BreastsWith the exception of East Williamsburg, just about every apartment I rented in New York City had at least one bodega on the corner. In fact most blocks had several bodegas, a couple of Korean fruit & vegetable markets and possibly a Whole Foods/Trader Joes.

Now that we live in the Hudson Valley that’s just not the case any more (though now we own a house and have a garden and a dog and a bunch of chickens*, so okay, fair trade). But the truth is that, even three years later, I’m still adjusting to the idea that I can’t yell out my window and have someone throw a jalapeño at me.

*I didn’t include cats in this list because I always had cats in the city.

So the other day, I’m walking around the grocery store and find that organic, thin-sliced chicken cutlets are on sale. “Awesome!” I say to myself, because I am literally that much of a dork.

Now if you follow this blog at all, you might have noticed that I almost always use thighs for baking and roasting because I think they have much more flavor. But the one thing you can’t do (easily) with chicken thighs? Stuff them.

So now I’m imagining some kind of crispy, panko-crusted chicken stuffed with some sort of cheesy, creamy, spicy deliciousness. Sounds good right? I thought so too, until I got home and realized that I had completely forgotten to get jalapeños which, surprisingly enough, happen to be a rather important ingredient in jalapeño-popper stuffed chicken.

I hemmed and hawed about it for about four seconds before I decided that, yup, nothing else would do. Back to the store for three dollars worth of chiles.

I don’t regret a thing.

Jalapeño Popper Stuffed Chicken Breasts

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