Cooking 101

Trio of restaurant favorites come home, showing what’s possible with trial and error

What do you like to do on lazy Sunday afternoons?

David Leonard, a student chef at Johnson County Community College, likes to re-create local restaurant favorites.

He’s not going to say which restaurants inspired his Fennel Roast Chicken With Apricot Champagne Sauce, Grilled Herb Polenta and KC Kale and Cabbage Sauté Vegetable Medley.

That’s because he doesn’t always capture a restaurant’s exact flavor, or he likes his combination of ingredients better. But he’s happy to share his recipes.

Leonard said these recipes illustrate that “often the great and unique dishes served at your favorite local restaurant can be easily made at home with a little trial and error and some practice.”

Fennel Roast Chicken With Apricot Champagne Sauce Makes 4 servings 1 whole chicken, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds 2 to 3 tablespoons fennel, freshly ground 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 to 2 teaspoons ground black pepper 1 to 2 teaspoons Spanish paprika 1 to 2 teaspoons ground sumac 2 tablespoons apricot preserves 1/2 to 1 cup Champagne or sparkling wine

Cut chicken in half. This can be done by carefully cutting down the center of the breast through the top half of the bird, then cutting straight down either side of the backbone about 1/2 to 1 inch from the centerline.

Once you have the bird in two halves with the backbone removed (you can freeze and save the backbone to use when making stock), mix together fennel, salt, pepper, paprika and sumac, and rub on both sides of the chicken halves. (Adjust the spice quantities for personal taste and the size of bird.)

Cook the chicken halves in a roasting pan in a 350-degree oven until completely cooked, reaching 175 degrees in the thickest parts, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Once the chicken is done, pour the drippings from the pan into a skillet. There should be at least 1/2 cup. If not, supplement it with chicken broth.

Add apricot preserves and 1/2 cup of Champagne to the drippings while whisking over heat. Slowly simmer until it starts to thicken. A little more champagne can be added if needed.

Serve sauce under or over roast chicken halves.

Per serving: 304 calories (35 percent from fat), 11 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 103 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 606 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber. Grilled Herb Polenta Makes 4 servings 3 cups chicken broth 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste) 1 1/2 cups medium grain quick-cooking polenta 2 tablespoons fresh finely minced parsley 3/4 cup grated Parmesan 2 tablespoons butter, to butter dish 1/4 cup olive oil 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring broth and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Reduce heat and slowly add polenta while whisking to prevent lumping. Continue to heat 3 to 5 minutes or as the package directs. Add parsley and Parmesan, and stir until fully mixed and very thick.

Pour into a well-buttered glass baking dish and spread until smooth on top with a rubber spatula. Cool to room temperature, then wrap and put in the refrigerator to cool at least several hours. (This can be done 24 to 48 hours in advance.)

Remove cold polenta from the refrigerator, and take it out of the pan. Cut into shaped portions like sticks, circles, triangles or squares.

Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill on a medium-hot grill until well-marked and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. This can also be done in a skillet.

Per serving: 298 calories (71 percent from fat), 27 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 27 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 845 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber. KC Kale and Cabbage Sauté Vegetable Medley Makes 4 servings 6 strips bacon 1 pound cabbage, thinly sliced 1 pound kale, center stalks removed and coarsely chopped 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon onion powder 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground sumac 1/4 teaspoon celery salt, or to taste 1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded

In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon to three-fourths of the way done; reserve 2 tablespoons of the grease. Cool bacon, then chop and set aside.

In large iron skillet, heat the bacon grease. Add the cored and thinly sliced cabbage and sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Add chopped kale, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, cumin, sumac and celery salt. Add diced bacon and sauté another 3 to 5 minutes until the vegetables have the desired tenderness. Stir in the shredded carrot and serve.

Per serving: 163 calories (30 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 23 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 1,274 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber. The Stylist

Recipes and food styling by David Leonard, 48, a third-semester student in the Johnson County Community College food and beverage management program.