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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Smokey Butternut Hash with Poached Eggs and Gouda Grits

Have I mentioned that my mom is the queen of leftovers? I think I have. She's the master of scraps and often says that her best stuff comes from the bits and pieces from days past. Well, perhaps the apple didn't fall too far from the tree. This was dinner last night and was one of my favorite scrappy meals yet. The best part about it - you could have this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And you could substitute just about any of the ingredients depending on what's in your fridge/freezer (see suggestions below). Paddy loved this. Last night he asked, "what's this called?" - I call it cleaning out the fridge.

4 eggs
1/2 cup grits
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups butternut squash, diced (small dice)
1 cup  shitake mushrooms, chopped
3 strips of cooked bacon, chopped
1 sausage link - either out of casing or chopped - I used leftover andouille, Italian or chorizo would be good!
3 sage leaves, chopped (any fresh herbs would be good)
1 tbsp thyme, chopped
1/2 cup shredded smoked gouda - could use any cheese
1 tbsp white vinegar

1. In a medium pan, cook the bacon and sausage with a little olive oil over medium high until a bit crispy and some of the fat is rendered. Add the shitakes and herbs and butternut squash. Stir occasionally so that the sausage doesn't burn and the squash and mushrooms get soft. Salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a large, wide bottomed pan, bring enough water to a boil for the poached eggs. Reduce heat to a simmer.

3. In a medium pot, add the broth and grits and bring to a boil. Turn down so the grits simmer and stir frequently for about 5 minutes.

4. Add the vinegar to the pot of water and using a small ramekin, add each of the eggs gently. They should only take 3 minutes. Carefully remove eggs when done and drain on a plate with a paper towel.

5. Add the shredded cheese to the grits and stir to melt.

6. Serve in a large bowl with grits on the bottom, eggs on top and hash around the sides.
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chicken Biryani

Let me start by saying that when I started searching for a good biryani recipe, I quickly realized how serious this stuff is. You take so much for granted when you eat out - especially Indian food. I love it but I don't make it that often. You gotta have a stocked spice collection for this and if you don't, it's a good excuse to go out and buy some spices that you should  have. This takes a while but sometimes a good long cook is what the soul needs. Just make sure to open your windows...

PS - don't be alarmed by the number of ingredients - this serves about 4-5 people and is great for leftovers.

7-8 onions (very thinly sliced and deep fried until light brown - DON'T skip this step)
10 cashews, fried in a little clarified butter (recipe for clarified butter below)
4 - 6 skinless chicken thighs, quartered
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp garlic paste
2 cups basmati rice (washed and soaked in salted water for at least 30 mins)
4 tbsp oil and oil for frying the onions
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
4 cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
4 large tomatoes (finely chopped)
1/4 tsp mace powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp tumeric
2-3 chopped green chilis (or you can use sambal for heat)
1 tbsp ginger, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1/2 cup milk
pinch of saffron
4 tbsp clarified butter
2 cups cilantro, chopped

1. Marinate the chicken in the yogurt, garlic paste and a pinch of salt for about 8 hours.

2. Heat oil in a dutch oven and fry the onions, separating with your fingers as you put them in. Keep stirring the onions as they fry so that they get evenly browned. Be careful not to have oil too hot - you don't want to burn them on the outside. Remove onions and set aside on a paper towel. They will crisp up once they cool. Drain most of the oil from the pot.

3. Boil the rice in a large pot - it's a lot of rice so use a big one! Put lots of water in the pot - you'll cook the rice like pasta. Also put in 1 cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, 2 cardamom pods, 1/4 tsp caraway seeds and salt. Boil for about 5-7 minutes or until rice is al dente. Be careful not to over cook - it'll cook more later. Drain rice and spread it on a cookie sheet to let cool.

4. In the dutch oven, add the bay leaves, and remaining cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. When they crackle, add the ginger, garlic and chiles. Saute for a minute and add the chicken and marinade. Cook until the liquids dry up.

5. Add the tomatoes, 1/3 of the fried onions, all of the powdered spices, salt and cook until the juices from the tomatoes evaporates. The chicken should be just cooked and most/all of the juices gone. Turn off the heat and set aside.

6. Warm the milk and add the saffron so it turns yellow.

7. In a deep, heavy-bottom pot (important to avoid burning) with a lid, spread some clarified butter. Then put a layer of rice, and a layer of chicken. Sprinkle a generous handful of cilantro and fried onions.  Repeat the layers and have rice be the top layer. Sprinkle remaining onions and all of the cashews over the top.

8. Pour the saffron milk on top using a spoon, evenly covering the whole area.

9. Cover the pot with foil and put the lid over it. Cook on very low heat for 45 minutes.

Clarified Butter
Heat 1 stick of butter over medium low. When melted, take off the heat and let sit until the butter settles and a translucent layer forms on top. Carefully spoon out the translucent layer and discard the rest.

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Grilled Vegetable and Rice Salad with Herby Vinaigrette

I'm on a roll with brown rice these days. I actually don't like it in hot food though. If I'm gonna have rice, I want it as white and sticky. Plus, you can't beat the flavors of basmati and jasmine. However, I started using brown rice a lot this summer as a "filler" in salads...meaning, I need more than just vegetables for lunch if I'm gonna make it through the day without gnawing on my desk. Turns out, this is a great role for brown rice. This salad is based on a recipe from Bon Appetit. You can use any herbs that you have but this combo is quite good!

12 okra pods (yes, you can skip it and use another veggie but grilled okra is actually quite good!)
3 ears of corn, shucked
1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise in 1'' slices
2 long chiles (Anaheim are good) stemmed
1 small eggplant, cut lengthwise in 1" slices
1 tbsp sea salt

1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup or so of fresh herbs (tarragon, mint, basil, cilantro)

1 cup brown rice

1. Cook the brown rice and set aside to cool.

2. Mix the vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Grill on high heat until softened a bit and lightly charred. Place the chiles in a bowl with plastic wrap and let them steam to loosen the skins. Peel and discard the skins and take out the seeds. Let all of the veggies cool and chop into chunks.

3. Put the dressing ingredients in a food processor with a drizzle of oil. Blend until you have a pesto consistency.

4. Mix everything together and put in the fridge!

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Chicken and Butternut Tagine

Reebs was here for a visit this weekend! Among a million other things that we amazingly squeezed into two short days, we popped by Rustica for a chat with Farouk, Amar, and Amed - our pals from the cafe across the street from our old apt on Beacon St. We talked to Farouk for a nice, long while - he was full of smiles and positivity as always. He talked a bit about his last visit home, to Algiers, and I asked him about what he likes to eat when he's there. He talked about tagine...It happened to be the first cold day of autumn here and nothing sounded better than a long, slow cooked North African stew. I've made this many times before, and actually had another recipe on the blog but this is WAY better. It's one to try in the fall weather - and your house will smell glorious. This is adapted from a Food and Wine recipe. It's a 2 hour cook, but the prep and initial cooking time will only take about 15 minutes!

1 lb chicken thighs, quartered
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp cloves
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
1 onion, diced
1/2 lb butternut squash - save yourself and get the pre-cut stuff from the store. They should be 1/2 cubes.
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
Salt - you'll need lots for this
Handful of raisins
Handful of green Picholine olives, optional
1/2 cup cilantro (optional)
Plain couscous

1. Combine the chicken and spices through the saffron in a bowl. Marinate for an hour or so if you have the time.

2. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Add the chicken and let cook until browned on both sides.

3. Move chicken aside in the pot and add the onions, cook until softened.

4. Add the broth and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the squash and cinnamon stick.

5. Bring to a boil and then reduce temp to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Add the raisins and olives about a half hour before serving so that they soften.

6. Serve in a bowl over couscous. Sprinkle cilantro on top. Print Friendly and PDF

Tigadegenan...Mafe...West African Peanut Stew

Whatever you wanna call it, this is my all time favorite West African meal. When I went to Mali for my last semester of college, this was one of the few dishes I ate. Not because I didn't try everything, but because in West Africa - especially Mali, there are only a few meals to make. Peanuts are everywhere in Mali - fresh, crunchy, and toasted over an open fire so that you can taste the char. So peanut butter (or peanut paste as it's called there) is abundant. It's not eaten with fluff on sandwiches though, it's made into this savory sauce that's served with mutton or chicken over rice with vegetables. This recipe comes from my colleague Jennifer Kawatu who has mastered the recipe with US ingredients and's right-on.

PS - this is the chicken version, not the mutton version ;)

1/2 jar natural peanut butter - no chunks, no sugar added (this is very important)
1 small can of tomato paste
1-2 onions, finely chopped
1 hot pepper or tsp of cayenne
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt (add more to taste)
3/4 lb of chicken thighs, quartered
1 carrot, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1/2 eggplant cut into 1/2 inch pieces
cabbage - about a quarter of a head, cut into wedges

1. Heat a few tsp of olive oil a large dutch oven over medium high heat.

2. Add the chicken and brown. Add the onions and cook until very tender.

3. Add vegetables and about 2 cups of water. Cook until veggies begin to soften.

4. While veggies cook, make a paste with the tomato paste and peanut butter. Add water until soupy consistency and easy enough to stir, keeping it thick.

5. Add the peanut/tomato paste mixture to the pot with chicken, stir well and turn temp down to medium low. Cook for about a half hour, adding a little water as needed (this should be a fairly thick but not pastey sauce). Cover and and let simmer until the oil from the peanut butter rises to the top in pools of red. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Do not stop cooking until this happens or it will taste only like peanut butter and not the sauce.)

6. Serve over white rice.

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Homemade Chorizo - No Meat Grinder Needed!!

I like to make chorizo tacos but the pre-cooked chorizo links that I get at my grocery store often get dried out when I cook it with other ingredients. So I prefer ground chorizo. On thing is, it's really tough to find. I found it once in Michigan and added it to my stuffing at Thanksgiving - that was GOOD. I like them in tacos, enchiladas, it's good with eggs! You can use this in so many ways and it's incredibly easy.

2 lbs ground pork
1/4 red wine vinegar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
2 ancho chiles, rehydrated and seeded (you can find these at most grocery stores, whole)
2 guajillo chiles, rehydrated and seeded (harder to find, sub 2 small chipotles in adobo)
1 tsp salt
olive oil

1. Put the chiles in a food processor and pulse until pretty fine. Add the rest of the ingredients and run the processor until everything is mixed together well.

2. That's it!!!! Heat some olive oil in a large pan and cook until done!

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Thai Drunken Noodles

We have a Thai restaurant across the street from our house and I think their kitchen vent is aimed directly at our balcony. We sit out there on summer evenings and smell the most delicious, enticing yumness. It makes me want to have Thai every night for dinner (is this why 80% of my posts are Thai??). This is one of my favorite Thai dishes and I almost always order it when we get Thai out, which actually isn't that often - especially since I can make this at home.Anyway, I have a lot of Thai favorites but this one I like if we order out. This is modified from Cooks Illustrated, i's extremely flavorful and will taste just like take-out...although you know what's in it! Gotta warn you, not the healthiest but definitely worth it once and a while...

2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 tsp baking soda
8 oz rice noodles
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp fish sauce
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 large eggs
10 oz broccolini, cut into 1 inch pieces
Handful chopped fresh basil

1. Combine chicken and baking soda with 2 tbsp water and let sit at room temp for about 15 minutes. Rinse in cold water and drain well.

2. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and pour over noodles in a large bowl. Stir, then soak until noodles are almost tender (about 8 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with 2 tsp of oil.

3.Whisk oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, molasses, and fish sauce in a bowl.

4. Heat 2 tsp oil and garlic in a large skilled over high heat, stirring occasionally until garlic is golden brown.

5. Add chicken, 2 tbsp sauce mixture and spread in an even layer. Flip once so that both sides are browned.

6. Push chicken to one side. Add 2 tsp of oil and add eggs. Stir gently to scramble and break up large pieces. Stir together with chicken and put in a bowl.

7. Heat 2 tsp oil to now empty skillet until very hot - almost smoking. Add broccolini and 2 tbsp of sauce and toss to coat. Cover and cook until browned and crisp. Transfer to bowl with chicken and eggs.

8. Heat 2 tsp oil in pan and add half of the noodles and 2 tbsp of sauce and toss to coat. Cook until noodles start to brown in spots, stirring halfway through cooking. Remove and add to the other ingredients and repeat with the rest of the noodles, adding the rest of the sauce.

9. When noodles are done, add the contents of the bowl (noodles, broccolini, chicken, eggs) and stir together. Add the basil and stir together.

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Pasta and Light Tomato Sauce

I had no idea what to call this. But it's a take on one of Lidia B's pasta dishes and became our favorite pasta dish this summer. Paddy's favorite dinner is pasta and red sauce but sometimes that red sauce gets a little heavy and hot in the summer. So, I lightened it up with some fresh tomatoes instead. This is incredibly easy and it's done in the time that it takes to boil the pasta - a great go-to!

Handful of spaghetti, linguini, angel hair
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1-2 tsp of crushed red pepper
4 medium tomatoes, diced (5 or 6 romas) - roma tomatoes work best but any tomato will do!
1 heaping tablespoon of capers (optional but good!)
1/4 cup of black olives if you have them (cured, black olives the best)
Fresh basil
Shredded asiago, romano or parmesan

1. Boil the water with a good bit of salt. Throw in the pasta.

2. In a large saucepan, heat enough olive oil to cover the pan (2 tbsp -ish) on medium.

3. Throw in the garlic and crushed red pepper. Let it simmer for a minute but don't let the garlic burn.

4. Add the diced tomatoes and their juice and the capers and olives. Add a pinch of salt, if you're using olives and capers, you won't need too much.

5. Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the tomatoes get nice and soft (about the time it will take to cook the pasta). Add 1/4 cup of pasta water as the sauce cooks down - you'll probably need to do this about twice.

6. Using tongs, take the spaghetti out of the water - you'll want a little bit of the water so no need to strain. Put the pasta in the pan and mix together with the sauce.

7. Top with chopped basil and cheese.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

French Apple Cake

The great thing about Cooks Illustrated is pretty much everything in it is a long as you make it right. I have a confession to make...we had Sara and Kiran over for dinner last weekend and I was in an Autumn mood. Although I had made homemade ice cream sandwiches (new summer favorite dessert!!), I thought I'd do something apple-y. Thing is, I forgot to make the top layer of this cake. Either way, it got two thumbs up from both the visitors and Paddy.

The bottom layer is like a cakey custard. The top layer (don't forget to separate the batter!) provides a tender, airy top to balance it off. Even better about this? No butter, cream, etc. which means my dad can eat it. Making it the right way the next time we go to CT for a visit...I'd provide a pretty photo but we ate it all :)

1.5 lbs granny smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into wedges and sliced 1/8 in. thick
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup plus
2 tbsp flour
1 cup plus
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (make your own!)

1. Preheat oven to 325. Spray a 9 inch springform pan with  vegetable oil spray. Place pan on a foil-lined cookie sheet (don't skip this step).

2. Place the cut apple in a microwavable pie or cassarole dish. Microwave apples, covered, for about 3 minutes until a bit soft. Toss apples with lemon juice and set aside to cool.

3. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, baking pwder and salt in a bowl.

4. In another bowl, whisk ONE EGG, oil, milk, and vanilla together until smooth.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. TRANSFER 1 CUP OF BATTER TO A SEPARATE BOWL AND SET ASIDE.

6. Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to pan and spread evenly.

7. Whisk remaining 2 tbsp flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle remaining 1 tbsp of granulated sugar on top.

8. Bake until cake is set, about 1 1/4 hours. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar to make it pretty when it's done and cooled.

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Tomatillo-Cilantro Salsa

I recently got a tortilla press. Yes, that's right. Why buy a package of corn tortillas in a matter of 30 seconds when you can take an hour and make your own? People often joke with me about how I make things a little harder sometimes than they need to be. But it's usually (USUALLY) because I like the process of doing it! (Eg. making cheese.) Anyway, when I was little, Kel and I made homemade tortillas with the help of her mom for Spanish class one time. I haven't forgotten how yummy they were, hot off the pan with a little butter. We at them like pancakes.

This recipe isn't for tacos, it's for salsa. But it's great with tamales (mix in with some shredded chicken and cheese), with steak, on top of arepas, and on just about anything. It's great with scrambled eggs and cheese for a weekend breakfast. This recipe is from Food and Wine You can swap out peppers depending on what you have (I still have a huge pot of jalapenos coming in on my balcony). 

1/2 lb tomatillos - you can get these in most grocery stores, just look hard.
2 serrano chiles or a couple of jalapenos (stemmed and seeded - leave a few seeds in if you like it hot!)
1 medium white onion, cut into wedges
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut in half
1/2 cup cilantro (optional, I know some people can't stand it)
1 tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 500 (I use the grill for this - more char and less heat in the house, especially in the summer!). If using oven, spread first 5 ingredients on a cookie sheet  and roast for 15 minutes, turning once or twice. If using grill, cut the veggies a little bigger so they don't fall through and roast until softish and charred.

2. Let it cool a little when it comes out of the oven. Throw everything in a blender with the cilantro and lime juice, salt and pepper. Blend until you have desired chunkiness. Print Friendly and PDF

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

You all know I love dumplings! Well, these are dumplings without the wontons and chicken instead of pork - likely a healthier option. I got this recipe from Bon Appetit and really liked it.

4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 Thai chile or a tsp of chili paste
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tbsp flour
1 glarlic clove, minced
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 head of Boston lettuce

1. Combine 2 tbsp of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, half of the chile, and 2 tbsp of water in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Combine remaining 2 tbsp of fish sauce, chile, chicken, shallots, oyster sauce, flour, and garlic in medium bowl and mix until ingredients are incorporated.

3. With damp hands, shape the chicken into small patties - like sliders. Cover and chill for about a half hour.

4. Heat oil in a medium pan at medium high heat. Cook the patties until they're lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

5. Wrap each patty with a lettuce leaf and drizzle with or dip into the the dipping sauce.

**This meat mix could be used with wonton wrappers for yummy dumplings! Print Friendly and PDF