Archive for the ‘Chicken’ Category

h1

Chicken Curry 2.0: The sequel worth waiting for…

May 18, 2007

IMG_2130.JPG
IMG_2062.JPG

Oftentimes when you’re waiting — probably impatiently — for some or other event to unfold, that wiseacre to your left will intone the stale adage, “Good things come to those who wait.”

Phooey.

It doesn’t help that it’s sometimes true. Take this curry, for example. I had become accustomed to working all day and coming home to find my house filled with the pleasant aromas of the dinner I was about to throw down my gullet. And, as if by magic, by the time I had settled in, said meal was sitting on the table, ready to eat. Not anymore.

Now that I am enjoying my maternity leave and caring for my son at home, I find that I am tortured by the process of my husband preparing dinner. Especially this curry. Instead of tucking into meals mere moments after walking in and being seduced by their aromas, I am now made to wait — impatiently — as the dish is built and lovingly prepared. Oh, the smells. Oh, the torture.

This meal includes a spate of marinating (which, thankfully doesn’t give off tempting odors), then grilling (which does), then roasting spices (which really, really does), and then building a gravy (yes, even more smells).

By the time this curry is ready to serve, yours truly is truly frantic. So, the only disadvantage to this dish is that when it’s ready, you — and any guests subjected to its preparation — may be too tempted to woof it down in ravenous delight, rather than savoring its subtle flavors.

Unfortunately, I myself find this to be true. That’s why I always determine to have two helpings: One to eat, and one to enjoy. I suggest you do the same.

IMG_1972.JPG
Click here to download the recipe for Chicken Curry.

Backgrounder…
I admit it. I’m obsessed. If you’ve had dinner with me in the past five years and got me talking about cooking, I’ve more than likely said something like, “There is something about Indian food… I just want to know what restaurants know that makes theirs so much better than mine.”

Another clear sign of an obsession: I wake up in the middle of the night craving good Indian food. To give you an idea how bad it is, this is the second version of this recipe we’ve posted. We did the earlier post, “Chicken Curry and Mind Control” on the same topic. Yet, I wanted to keep working on it.

Furthermore, I have a very small cookbook collection, 15 or so books. Of those, there are two books that deal just with Indian food. I’ve purused these books with a religious zealotry, only to discover that there is something lost between those pages and my results. Indeed, I’ve been compelled to look through the recipes of other Indian cookbooks trying to divine some secret I’ve missed.

In essence, I want culinary satisfaction now. I don’t want discussion about the things I missed, spices I don’t have, or rationalities in the cuisine. I want amazing curry. End of discussion.

IMG_2070.JPG

The first breakthrough came last fall when we went to California to visit my wife’s paternal grandparents. They are fascinating people who love to eat. So when her grandfather offered to teach me his curry recipe, I was more than happy to learn. His recipe is actually a Malaysian-style curry, which he learned after he and his wife fled China during the Cultural Revolution. Focusing on coconut milk and good curry powder, the recipe is amazingly good and it’s reflected primarily in the earlier post.

And yet… there was something missing. The flavor was not developed the way I wanted. There was a lack of depth. There wasn’t that wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-start-cooking feeling that I wanted in my recipe.

IMG_2111.JPG

The next breakthrough came not long after Jack was born. Both my wife and I were craving Indian food, but commiserating that there was no place nearby with great takeout. I drove out of my way to try a new place rumored to be good, but during the long car ride it clicked — the tandoor. For those who don’t know, a tandoor is a round oven in which food is cooked over charcoal and intense heat. The result gives Indian cuisine a signature flavor. I don’t have a tandoor (though you can add it to my list of things I want for my next kitchen), but I do have something that has intense heat — my grill.

This insight has changed everything. I started to realize that many dishes in Indian restaurants are not the one-pot cooking I presented in a previous post, but are two separate dishes — a protein and a gravy. They require separate construction and then unification.

Since changing my mindset, there has been a startling improvement. First, I focused on making the chicken delicious. And it is. The chicken is so good that I have a tough time not eating it before I’ve added to the gravy. Speaking of the gravy: It’s full of flavor and the complexity that I find so wonderful about curry. I also added new elements — cashews and golden raisins — to enhance the tropical flavors of the coconut milk. When these flavors blend, I feel they unite to become one of the most pleasing dishes I’ve posted here on the blog.

IMG_2097.JPG

Unfortunately, this new approach means a serious stretching of the prep time. But, I want satisfaction, and sometimes I’m willing to go to the extra mile for it. The recipe has lots of ingredients, lots of steps, but it is so fundamentally satisfying that I have a tough time complaining while I’m cooking.

Finally, some notes on the recipe. I used chicken thighs. I prefer them because you can cook the heck out of them with little damage and I feel they have more flavor. If you have only breast meat, feel free to substitute. I would recommend Greek yogurt if you can get it. I think tangier yogurts, such as Greek yogurt, add more zing to the recipe versus the common stuff. I use serrano peppers because I like their flavor better for this sort of dish, but feel free to substitute jalapeños if you can’t find them. Lastly, I tend to use a white wine that has more of a fruity flavor profile. I think it adds another depth that enhances the sweetness in the coconut milk.

IMG_2125.JPG

IMG_1971.JPGIMG_2035.JPGIMG_2083.JPGIMG_1976.JPGIMG_1989.JPGIMG_1991.JPGIMG_2100.JPGIMG_2119.JPG

Chicken Curry
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients:
Yogurt marinade:
1 1/2 to 2 lbs . chicken thighs (boneless & skinless)
1/2 large onion (diced)
1 1/2 cups yogurt
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garam masala
3 cloves garlic (sliced)

1 tbsp. fresh ginger (minced)
1 serrano pepper (diced)

Gravy:
14 oz. can coconut milk
1 large onion (diced)
2 serrano peppers (diced)
1 cup cashews
5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/2 cup white wine
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro

Spice Mix:
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Extras:
4 bamboo skewers
rice

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the yogurt marinade. Cut the thigh pieces into three to four larger than bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken to the bowl and stir until all pieces are covered in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour to overnight. At this point, I place my bamboo skewers in water to soak to prevent burning on the grill later.

2. Light the grill and heat to medium high, if gas-powered. Remove the chicken from the bowl and skewer. Oil the grates with vegetable oil or oil spray and then add the chicken to the grill. Cook for about 5 minutes and then flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest while preparing the gravy.

3. Mix together the spice mix in a small dish.

4. In a large pot over medium high heat, add the butter and let it froth and bubble. Once it has stopped, add the olive oil and let heat for about 30 seconds. Add the spice mix and stir for 30 seconds. Turn down the heat to medium. Add the onions and ginger and then salt liberally. Cook for about 6 minutes stir or until the onions begin to soften. Add the cashews, peppers and garlic and cook for another 6 minutes.

5. Time to build up the gravy. Add the wine and stir, clearing the bottom of the pan of any baked-on bits (a.k.a. fond). Continue to cook for 4 minutes or until the wine has mostly reduced. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken, raisins and cilantro and cover. At this point, I typically start my rice and let it cook while I let the dish finish off simmering together. Otherwise, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Serve hot over rice. Enjoy.

Advertisements
h1

They’re dynamite, Napoleon: Gosh-darned chicken quesadillas

May 14, 2007

IMG_1936.JPG
IMG_1873.JPG

It’s that time of year, and he’s been at the grill again. As far as I can tell, there has been only one instance when the husband inadvertantly left that gas-powered fire hazard on — and he beat me to the chore of turning it off, glaring at me menacingly as he did so. (Is it wrong to be a nag about an item that can burn your house down? I think not.)

You might think, then, that I would discourage firing up the barbie for an item like chicken quesadillas, which can be safely made indoors and without the risk of sirens. Well, think again.

These quesadillas rock because of the sooty flames licking their crisp skins. They rock because of the sear marks on the juicy chicken inside. They rock because they are crunchy and fresh and… well, grilled.

As you know, I am a huge fan of eating and of my husband’s cooking. Plus, I love any items that are chock-full of fresh ingredients — here, it’s salsa and avocado. (Yes, please!) Therefore, I yield to the siren song of these delicious chicken quesadillas and throw caution to the wind. When the husband volunteers to make these chicken quesadillas, I turn on the grill.

(And, of course, make sure it’s turned off again, too.)

IMG_1863.JPG
IMG_1879.JPG
IMG_1889.JPG

Click here to download the recipe for Chicken Quesadillas.

Backgrounder…
So, OK, not the most original recipe. But this is one that I’ve used a number of times in recent weeks with excellent success. You can serve these quesadillas as a meal or an appetizer. And let’s be honest: It’s starting to get hot out and it’s grilling season… So “Knock it off Napoleon, and make yourself a dang Ques-a-dilla!” (For those who have used their lives more efficiently than I have, that quote is from Napoleon Dynamite, a movie that I’ve grown to appreciate.)

Now that I’ve convinced you to make yourself a quesadilla, here are the keys to it. First, keep everything fresh. I know the temptation in life is to take that jar of salsa from New York City and mix it in, but it’s not worth it. Everything is coming into season now and you’ll be able to taste it in every bite.

Second, the wet rub is king in this recipe. In the last post I talked about a dry rub on the ribs. (I love dry rubs, too.) But this is a dish you want to turn out on the fly, like when you are exhausted by a 2-month-old and don’t want to order out for the third night in a row. So the wet rub — here very spicy — gives you a lot of kick, without taking hours to create flavors.

Finally, the grill is magic. Even my gas-powered grill can make all the difference in flavors. You can toast the quesadillas or broil them for likely the same level of doneness, but the grill marks and flavors brought on by sitting on those grates will make you crave this dish. If you can, grill. You will be rewarded.

IMG_1910.JPG
IMG_1937.JPG

IMG_1833.JPGIMG_1847.JPGIMG_1881.JPGIMG_1869.JPGIMG_1892.JPGIMG_1897.JPGIMG_1900.JPGIMG_1908.JPGIMG_1933.JPG

Chicken Quesadilla
Yield: 24 servings if hors doerves, 6 for main course
Time: 40 min

Ingredients:
1 dozen 4-inch flour tortillas
2 large chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)
2 cups cheddar, Monterey jack or similar cheese
1 avocado (diced)

Wet Rub:
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro (chopped)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake
1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
juice of 1 lime

Salsa:
1 medium onion (diced)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (diced)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
2 jalapeños (finely diced)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 lime (juice)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. This recipe uses direct heat while cooking over a grill. If using a gas grill, set to medium high heat. If using charcoal, over the coals will work.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the wet rub. Pat dry the chicken breasts and dredge them through the rub. Both sides should be well coated.

3. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 4 to 5 min per side with the grill lid on or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165-170F. Remove from the heat and let rest for at least 5 min, preferably longer. Once cooled, cut the breasts into half-inch or smaller cubes. Do not turn off the grill or snuff the flames once cooking is complete. You will be returning to the grill later.

4. While the chicken is grilling, mix together the salsa in a large bowl. Be careful with the jalapenos — if you are not inclined to spicy food, modify. Take a third of the salsa and set aside to serve along with the finished product. Add the diced avocado and cubed chicken to the remaining two-thirds of the salsa. At this point, if you are preparing for a party, you can stop. Simply cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. It’s important that you press the plastic wrap down against the mix, to prevent the avocado from oxidizing and turning brown, as apples do.

6. If your tortillas are refrigerated, remove from fridge and allow to warm to room temperature or until easily pliable. Once ready, take about two tablespoons of your chicken mix, and place it on one side of the tortilla. Add a healthy pinch of cheese and then fold the tortilla over in half. If necessary, press along the seam to keep the tortilla closed.

7. Time for the finishing touches. Place the filled tortillas on the grill. Toast them on both sides for about 2 min per side or until the tortilla becomes crisp and the edges begin to darken. Once cooked, remove from heat and let rest for at 2 minutes to allow the cheese to solidify slightly. Slice in half and serve with the remaining salsa, plus other condiments of choice such as guacamole and sour cream.

h1

Special Stir Fry (aka Shrimp, Cashew, and Chicken Stir Fry with coconut, basil… yeah, just call it “Special”)

March 12, 2007

IMG_6997.JPG
IMG_6964.JPG
IMG_6937.JPG

Remember that old slogan, “When you’re really good, they call you Cracker Jack?”

Well, I think it applies here. But I think there’s a problem with calling this dish “Cracker Jack Stir Fry.” (Just one problem?) Mainly that it might be misleading about its ingredients. Alas, there are no carmelized popcorn bits or candied peanuts hiding amid the luscious noodles, shrimp, chicken and veg.

So we don’t call delicious dishes in this house “Cracker Jack.” Instead, in a fit of uncreativity and lameness, I call them “special.” Yes, like the way they tried to jazz up your school lunch menu. (I never said I was a genius marketer.) “Special” is shorthand for what a ravenous wife (me) can say when she wants some of the favorites of her husband’s cooking: “Make me special pasta.” “Make me special tacos.” “Make me special stir fry.”

This, friends, is special stir fry.

What elevates it to “special” level? Something about the combination of herbs and sauces — the subtle play of salty soy, vinegar and fresh, leafy herbiage. Something about the sweet and luscious shrimp and the tender, delicious chicken. Something about the unexpected and delightful crunch of carmelized cashews. Something about the mounds of slender, seasoned noodles that are nesting all that goodness. No, wait, I’ve got it: It’s something about the alluring heat of the fresh red pepper flakes and their tingle on your tongue.

Well, wherever the magic resides, it is indeed “special.” Grab your fork and open your maw, Cracker Jack… The special stir fry is on.

Click here to download the recipe for Special Stir Fry.

IMG_6891.JPG
IMG_6898.JPG

Backgrounder…
When I got done playing with and tweaking this dish, I turned to my wife and said, “We have to give this a name… something cute like General Tso’s Chicken. We can’t just call it ‘shrimp, cashew, and chicken stir fry with coconut, mint, cilantro, basil, and lemon thyme.’” With noodles still hanging from her fork, my wife just shrugged at me and said, “Just call it, ‘Special Stir Fry’.”

At that moment, I knew I had done good. “Special” is a moniker few dishes get. It also means that it has to go into the rotation of dishes we do on a regular basis when not blogging or experimenting. In our house, it’s the equivalent of throwing “Ultimate” or “Classic” or some other super adjective in front of the dish. So I was strutting like a 6’2’’ rooster when I heard “Special” tacked on to this dish.

When designing Special Stir Fry, I wanted that freshness and lightness that so many Southeast Asian dishes have. However, since I’m not familiar with their cuisines beyond a few scarfs here and there (I’m allergic to peanuts so I have to be careful), I tried to imagine that freshness while balancing the five flavors.

What are the five flavors? In many Asian cultures, cooks speak of balancing sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy in order to create the perfect meal. The idea is that these flavors must be in harmony for the most enjoyment — the culinary version of feng shui if you like. So in this dish, I tried to keep the five flavors as my guide posts.

And I think I did a fairly good job. The sweetness from the mirin and coconut, the heat from the chilis, the salt from the soy sauce, the brightness from the herbs, and the sour from the squeeze of lime at the finish play together to give you several distinct flavors. At the same time, the flavors from the proteins are preserved. You always taste shrimp, chicken and cashews. I’m tremendously delighted with this dish. Hopefully, you’ll appreciate Special Stir Fry as well. However, my wife’s “Cracker Jack stir fry” line started me wondering…

IMG_6924.JPG
IMG_6943.JPG
IMG_6998.JPG
Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Sombreros, the Super Bowl, and Sugar and Lard: the Road to Chicken Flautas!

January 30, 2007

IMG_5120.JPG
IMG_5117.JPG

There are so many reasons to love Mexican/Southwestern food. The generous portions. The fact that refried beans come standard. The toppings: fresh salsa, sour cream, cheese. Guacamole (a reason unto itself). Pulled and stewed meats, cheese sauces, hot spices and fried things. The list goes on…

So when my husband declared that he was going to make flautas — my go-to order at all Mexican/Southwestern restaurants, I pulled on my sombrero, tucked in my napkin and readied my utensils.

Flautas are delicious. They combine the best of so many cooking methods: Slow cooked, pulled meat nestled inside a crispy, crunchy deep fried tortilla. You get that satisfying crunch and then a moist mouthful of well-cooked, juicy, shredded meat. Heaven. I like my flautas mounded with fresh ingredients like homemade salsa and guacamole, sour cream and cheese. All those fresh veggies have to make the fried object they’re obscuring healthy, right? Of course I’m right.

But could my husband pull this off? Were his culinary skills up to the task? My sombrero and I waited in breathless anticipation.

Not to worry… the flautas were more than edible; they were delicious. The technique is a bit tricky, only because the hot oil can easily dry the meat that you’ve worked so hard to season and stew. (I should know, being a flauta connisseur.) But after a few flauta soldiers perished (being merciful, I helped to finish them off), golden and delicious flautas began exiting the cook top.

Yes, you can have good Mexican food at home… now all that’s missing is the refried beans.

Click here to download the recipe for Chicken Flautas.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Take that, Col. Sanders: Pistachio fried chicken

January 5, 2007

IMG_4233.JPG
IMG_4264.JPG
IMG_4190.JPG

There is some truth in advertising. Fried chicken really is finger lickin’ good.

But it is also extremely hard to prepare well at home, at least in our experience — which is why Col. Sanders is wearing that stupid grin on KFC’s ubiqutous sign. The colonel knows that when a fried chicken urge overtakes you, you’re more likely to grab a red-and-white bucket of his crispy fried breasts and thighs than attempt to make your own.

Until now.

That’s right. It was while flipping through TV channels over the holidays that my husband and I had our hopes rekindled for the possiblity of tasty home-fried chicken. A stroke of luck (or my husband’s overactive clicker finger) landed us on the Food Network just as Paula Dean, soaked in her Southern charm, was showing viewers how to make some alluring fried chicken. Not only did it look outstanding, she made it seem so simple.

This was in contrast to our past encounters with frying chicken at home. Those results had been less than appetizing: greasy bird parts, soggy coating that slipped off and failed to deliver a crunch, and a generally unappetizing fried oil smell that lingered for too long. Col. Sanders was not only grinning at us… he was taunting us.

But my husband must have gotten fried chicken on his brain anyway, because not a week after seeing this episode he declared that he was going to attempt pistachio fried chicken… a nuttier variation of Paula Dean’s recipe. Despite the TV evidence that this recipe could work, I was somewhat skeptical.

Skeptical, that is, until I saw those beautiful chicken quarters exiting our cast iron pan. Golden brown and delicious they were, with meat that was tender and moist. And when I pulled away a delightfully crispy piece of skin and was met with a satisfying and terrific crunch, I knew that we had vanquished the colonel.

Yes, folks, you can make good fried chicken at home. And if you have a taste for a nutty, crunchy skin on your fried chicken… try my husband’s pistachio fried chicken. You won’t be sorry, and — bonus — the colonel just might be!

Click here to download the recipe for Pistachio Fried Chicken


Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

The food pyramid commands you: Roast chicken and quince and sausage stuffing

December 1, 2006

IMG_3035.JPG

IMG_3036.JPG

Stuffing is one of the more perfect side dishes. Think about it. Not only is it hot and delicious, but the best stuffings also have representatives from the major food groups: Bread, vegetable, meat, and in this case, fruit. Translation: Stuffing is totally good for you.

So when you’ve grown more than a little uncomfortably full and the zipper on your pants is starting to show its teeth — and yet you’re still contemplating that second helping of grandma’s stuffing … don’t hesitate. Remember your food pyramid, and fork up that stuffing, soldier. After all, our government says it’s good for you.

So now that I’ve convinced you that you not only like stuffing, but that you need stuffing, let me tell you about my husband’s latest grand design (featuring all four major food groups): Sausage and quince stuffing. Yessir.

Baked in that warm, fatty crevice that is the inside of a beautifully brined chicken, the stuffing’s many flavors — sweet and savory — mingle to create a stuffing piece de resistance. I’m a savory stuffing kind of gal, so I enjoyed the aroma and earthiness of the fresh herbs and sweet Italian sausage. But the nuggets of quince were wonderful players in this ouevre, and added their sweet song to its soaring medley. It was like a stuffing symphony arranged on the molars of my gaping maw.

Am I waxing poetic (and silly) about stuffing? Sue me. If you’d had it, you’d be spouting verse, too. And if stuffing can be a muse, I think you’ll agree, it must be damn good stuffing. (Not to mention the chicken. Oh, the chicken…. But that’s enough swooning for one post, don’t you think?)

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

It was the chicken. Under a brick. With the potatoes.

October 28, 2006

IMG_2264.JPG

IMG_2261.JPG

IMG_2255.JPG

Chicken under a brick doesn’t sound glamorous, does it? In fact, it may not even sound appetizing. The idea of a bit of poultry stewing under some sandy building implement doesn’t get the saliva flowing. That is, unless you’ve actually had chicken under a brick. In which case, you’re willing to knock down old women and children to cut a path to the serving station – fork in hand and plate outstretched.

Chicken under a brick – or geek chicken, as my husband fondly calls it – is a delicious, flavorful and moist roasted bird. But that’s only the half of it. In addition to beautiful and juicy meat, housed in a herb-incrusted and crispy skin, are wondrous, aromatic and deliciously decadent roasted potatoes. That’s correct, they come right with the recipe! The potatoes cook right under that bird, soaking up the fatty goodness that drips down into the pan and melding with the tangy thyme seasoning mix the potatoes are lovingly tossed in. It’s magical, folks.

The best part is, my husband can be easily persuaded to make this recipe because it’s so darn easy. You don’t even need a brick – my husband uses a pan weighed down with 32 oz cans of whole tomatoes. Genius, I tell you. So read on for the recipe, and eat on for satisfaction!

Read the rest of this entry ?