Cold weather, orange and yellow leaves, windstorms, torrential rains, and a stubborn head cold have conspired to make me really feel the onset of autumn. I’ve roasted a chicken, made several pots of soup, and braised a brisket with Frank’s Red Hot chile sauce and dried onion soup mix (not to mention my first kugel – more on that later). I also made dinner rolls, which I haven’t done in a million years.
These aren’t just any dinner rolls, either. They’re sweet potato dinner rolls, which are sweet and earthy and soft and perfect for scenting the house on a cold fall evening.
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Ever since I discovered the word “spatchcock” in a Nigella Lawson book, I’ve wanted to try it. And not just because it’s such a great word.
It’s a method of preparing a chicken for high heat cooking such as roasting or grilling, where you remove the backbone and flatten the bird so that it’s more or less an even thickness throughout. It has the effect of getting all the skin on one side, so you should be able to get lots of crispy chicken skin, plus the flesh side is all available for seasoning. This weekend we finally got around to trying it, and the result was sort of a Win-Fail-Win situation.
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The chives in my garden aren’t quite in bloom yet, but they’ve become tall and lush and have been begging to be made into Chinese scallion-chive flatbreads. I felt it was only fair to oblige.
These breads are so delicious, I can’t begin to tell you. Sometimes you can get them in Chinese restaurants, but I’ve never had one to compare with homemade, fresh out of the pan. They are addictive: crunchy on the outside, soft, salty and fragrant on the inside.
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When I decided to make two new recipes for dinner out of a brand new Malouf & Malouf cookbook, I figured there was a chance it might be a complete flop, but at least it would look pretty. Fortunately for me, it was pretty and tasty: shrimp with ouzo and garlic, and a salad of watercress, red onion, radish and fried strips of pita bread. It was good enough to make again; a little tweaking is in order for next time, of course.
The most exciting part was cutting a pita bread into thin strips and frying it in olive oil and butter until golden and crispy. That was really, really fun. The resulting croutons were almost like buttery potato chips. Continue reading →
St. Patrick’s Day is coming right up! For us, this week generally means playing several musical gigs in a row, driving across a variety of high mountain passes in snowstorms, and drinking a lot of wine, but I realize that this isn’t most people’s idea of the holiday. However, to get in the mood in advance this year (and to provide photos for an article I was writing), I made up a batch of Irish soda bread and some beef stew to go with it. And damn if that wasn’t the best beef stew I have ever made! The bread wasn’t bad, either.
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Nothing fancy here, once again. Just a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup and a few pieces of really good bread. Broccoli cheddar is one of my all-time favorite soups, but I never get it anymore – it seems like the local pubs never have it on the menu these days. And when I decided to make some myself, I couldn’t find a single recipe for it anywhere in my vast cookbook collection – so I made one up. I think it worked quite well.
I sauteed a chopped onion in butter, then added flour, then chicken stock, water and broccoli stems. When the stems were soft, I used an immersion blender to puree it all up, then added the broccoli florets and let them simmer until just tender. I added a splash of half-and-half and a good handful of grated raw medium cheddar.
To go with, I bought a loaf of Samish River potato bread, which was the perfect mate: soft but crusty, with a full sourdough/potato flavor. A lovely dinner.
We made our periodic pilgrimage to Uwajimaya last weekend, partly to shop for tacky Christmas presents but mostly to restock our supply of noodles, tea and chile-garlic sauce. We went to Samurai Noodle for lunch (the new Extra Pork Fat option is astonishing), then spent the next two hours battling our way through all the other people milling around trying to figure out which small red jar might hold the correct form of soybean paste or pickled turnip, or stampeding through the narrow aisles between the Hello Kitty stickers and the Daruma keychains.
The funny thing is, we came home with all this new stuff, all jazzed up about doing some new Chinese dishes or something Indonesian, and the dinner we ended up making didn’t use any of it. How silly. We were going to make a side of stirfried ong choy (water spinach), which we haven’t found anywhere else, but it started to compost itself before we could cook it (drat). We had to have plain spinach instead. And for dinner I made bao, one of my favorite things to eat in the world, with a new filling out of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty, which turned out to be the easiest bun filling I’ve ever made and used ingredients we already had around. Go figure. But never fear, we’ll get around to the soybean paste and pickled mustard greens later this week. Stay tuned!
Concerning bao: I love pretty much any kind of bread or dumpling with a savory filling, and bao are even more wonderful made fresh at home than they are off a street vendor’s cart. Continue reading →
Back during the summer we had been steadily working our way through the stunning book 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer, but we’ve slacked off a bit of late. Everything from that book has tasted fabulous, but much of it, like a lot of Indian food in general, is very unphotogenic and so not very conducive to blogging.
This week we ended up needing to cook one more dinner at home than we had planned, so I went looking for a recipe that could be made from just what was in the freezer and pantry. This shrimp curry was just the ticket, since we had the last of a bag of frozen shrimp needing to be used, there was a bag of dried grated coconut in the cupboard, fresh cilantro left over from a Thai stirfry, and everything else is a standard pantry item for us. We scaled the recipe down to match the amount of shrimp we had. Continue reading →
A while back I mentioned a batch of khachapuri that I had made, but I didn’t go into detail about them because I was seriously distracted by the gougères I was making at the same time. Last week I made them again, though, so I thought I’d do some fuller coverage.
Khachapuri are cheese-and-egg filled flatbreads from the Republic of Georgia. The bread itself is a yogurt and white flour dough which is very simple to make and very tasty as well. The variety I always make are the “emeruli khachapuri” out of Flatbreads and Flavors; the book has some variations stuffed with red beans or potatoes, but I haven’t really branched out yet – these are too good.
from Flatbreads and Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
The full recipe makes 8 flatbreads. The breads are very filling, so I usually just make a half batch, which works fine. Leftovers are tasty for breakfast, too.
for the dough:
- 3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups plain yogurt
for the filling:
- 4 oz cheddar or mozzarella cheese, finely grated
- 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 Tbsp plain yogurt
- 1 egg
Preheat the oven to 450°. Continue reading →
One disadvantage of this otherwise rather nice town is that there is not a single Indian restaurant. During the time we’ve lived here there have been two: a decent enough place attached to a motel that turned into (yet another) Mexican restaurant a couple years ago, and a really great place with a real tandoori oven, which turned into an office furniture shop. Now there’s nothin’. This is part of the reason we cook so much Indian food at home. Besides, it’s fun.
We had friends over last weekend, and fixed up a pretty standard set of dishes to take care of any Indian cravings: red lentil dal, basmati rice, spiced okra, flatbread and chicken curry. The bread and the curry were (pretty safe) experiments: I made paratha for the first time, and the curry was the Chicken Simmered in a Tomato Sauce (very straightforward title) from Meena Pathak’s book.
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