dinner 9-17-15

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A rather nice dinner for one: a chicken thigh dusted with Moroccan seven spice and baked, shredded and piled onto Israeli couscous cooked with broth and vegetables (garlic, zucchini and Swiss chard), on a bed of fresh mizuna from the garden. I really enjoyed the bite of the mizuna with the sweet/spicy chicken. I poured myself a glass of New Zealand Sauv Blanc.

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braised chicken with a lot of garlic

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I’ve made this recipe twice now. It’s really, really good, even if you use a lot less than the traditional 40 cloves of garlic, but when I make it it seems to come out very rich and salty, causing me to wake up at 2am with a certain digestive regret. Maybe if I went easier on the salt and did a better job of defatting the sauce. Or maybe just eat less of it. I dunno, did I mention it’s really, really good?

Braised Chicken with Forty Cloves a Lot  of Garlic
adapted from Use Real Butter, who adapted it from Fine Cooking

4 lbs. chicken, whole or pieces (whole thighs are nice)
kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chicken broth
baguette for serving

Pat the chicken dry, season (both inside and out if whole chicken) with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, then sprinkle paprika over it. Squeeze the lemon juice into a vessel and reserve. If preparing a whole chicken, place the used lemon half in the cavity. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken breast-side or meaty-side down and brown for about 2 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and drain off the oil in the pot (but keep the brown bits!). Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and the wine, stirring the bottom of the pot to deglaze the fond. Place the chicken in the pot on top of the garlic, with the breast-side or meaty-side up. Add the herbs and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and set the heat to low.

Braise 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes, until done.  Move the chicken to a plate. Defat the sauce as much as possible, bring the drippings to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer, mashing the garlic into the gravy. Season the gravy with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve with the chicken (carved or as pieces) and toasted slices of baguette.

Thai chicken

chicken basil stirfry

I’ve made this Thai chicken stirfry three times so far, and I still can’t believe how easy and wonderful it is. The base recipe is from Alford and Duguid’s Hot Sour Salty Sweet: chop a pound of chicken (I like boneless thigh meat) into small pieces, and mince five cloves of garlic and a couple of serrano or bird chiles. Heat peanut oil in a wok and toss in the garlic and chile, then add the chicken. Stirfry until not quite cooked through, then add a tablespoon of fish sauce, a bit of soy, a bit of sugar, and cook it all together until the chicken is done. Add a big handful of Thai basil leaves and turn off the heat so they wilt but don’t overcook. Add a lot of freshly ground black pepper. The flavors are much bigger and more exciting than you’d think from the small amount of seasoning, but definitely don’t skimp on the garlic!

I’ve adapted the recipe by throwing in green beans or other veg, which was good but diluted the seasoning on the chicken – I think I prefer cooking a vegetable separately with its own flavors. I’ve also tried substituting a mix of cilantro and fresh mint for the Thai basil, which is a suggestion we got from Cook’s Illustrated. The original recipe actually calls for holy basil, but I can’t get that around here – someday I’ll try it. I imagine regular European basil would work, too, in a pinch. The stirfry should be served with plenty of rice to soak up the fish sauce-y juices.

cucumber salad

When I made the chicken again earlier this week I threw together this cucumber salad to go alongside. I glanced at two recipes but didn’t quite follow either; I put a spoonful of sugar in a bowl along with a splash of rice vinegar, a splash of Chinese black vinegar, and a drizzle of homemade chili oil, then stirred it all up and added diced, seeded cucumber and a handful of fresh chopped cilantro. We had to restrain ourselves from eating the whole bowlful so there would be leftovers.

cardamom chicken

cardamom chicken

We went over the mountains to my parents’ house this weekend for band practice. When my father and I put our heads together to come up with an interesting but soothing dinner, this is the recipe that turned up: chicken legs rubbed with cardamom and other spices, pan-fried with onions, then braised until tender. If you don’t care for cardamom, avoid this one, but if you like its fragrant pungency as much as we do, then by all means try it. Yet another winner from the book 660 Curries, this is a great thing to do with cheap drumsticks – although it would also be swell with boneless chicken thighs. The sharpness of the cardamom could be quelled a bit by adding some yogurt, cream or other dairy product.

chicken with spice rub

We seeded cardamom pods by hand, then blitzed them to powder and mixed them with other spices. This got rubbed all over skinned chicken drumsticks, which then marinated for half an hour.

browning chicken and onions

The chicken went into a large skillet with diced onion, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks, and we sauteed it until the onion was soft and the spices were all sticking to the bottom of the pan. We added water, covered the pan and let it all simmer for half an hour.

cardamom chicken

We tossed a handful of fresh cilantro in, then lifted out the chicken legs, bay leaves and cinnamon and set them aside.

spinach

We cooked down the liquid a bit, wilted baby spinach in it, poured everything over the chicken, and voila! A warmly fragrant dinner for a February day.

view from North Road

Cardamom-scented chicken legs

adapted from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer

  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, microplaned
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, pressed
  • 2 tsp cardamom seeds, ground
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (half of what the original recipe called for, but it was plenty spicy)
  • 1 tsp salt (we actually forgot to add the salt, but it hardly needed it)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 8 chicken drumsticks or thighs, skin removed
  • oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 4 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 8 oz baby spinach (optional)
  • yogurt or heavy cream (optional)

Combine the ginger, garlic, cardamom, cayenne, salt and turmeric and smear the resulting paste over the chicken pieces. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Heat a few spoonfuls of oil in a large skillet with a well-fitting lid. Add the onion, chicken, bay and cinnamon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the chicken has browned, about 20 minutes.

Add a cup of water, scrape the pan bottom to deglaze it, bring to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook gently about 30 minutes, stirring once in a while. Stir in the cilantro.

Remove the chicken to a platter and boil down the sauce in the pan until it thickens a bit. Toss in a pile of spinach leaves to wilt, if you like, and perhaps a half cup or so of plain yogurt or cream. Serve the greens and sauce with the chicken legs and some steamed basmati rice.

vinegar chicken

vinegar chicken

Another recipe from the Hunan cookbook I’ve been working through. It was quite a lot blander than I had expected, with very little vinegar kick – maybe I need a rice vinegar with more oomph? But we’ve been trying to eat lightly during the week and this certainly fit the bill. One nice side product was the broth from poaching the chicken. Part of it went into the final stirfry, but I also used it to cook chard for a side dish, which made for wonderfully flavorful greens. I also froze some of it to use later.

This struck me as a good “gentle” dinner to make when you’re feeling a bit frail.

Dong’an chicken

from The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

  • 4 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) or one small chicken cut into pieces
  • 2 inch piece ginger, cut in half
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 fresh hot chile
  • 3 dried chiles
  • 2 tsp Shaoxing wine or sherry
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp whole Sichuan pepper  or Sichuan pepper oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp cornstarch stirred into 2 tsp cold water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Bring a quart of water to a boil and add the chicken pieces, half the ginger and one scallion (lightly crushed). Reduce the heat to a simmer and poach 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid and cool, then shred/cut into long pieces with the grain. It won’t quite be cooked through. You can add the bones and skin back into the poaching liquid to make stock.

Sliver the fresh chile and remaining ginger and scallions. Heat a spoonful of peanut oil, add the fresh and dried chiles, ginger, and Sichuan pepper and cook until fragrant but not burning. Add the chicken and stir-fry, splashing wine around the edges, then add the vinegar, Sichuan pepper oil (if using) and salt. Pour in a half cup or so of the poaching liquid. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer. Add the cornstarch and scallions, cook briefly to thicken, finish with the sesame oil and serve with rice or noodles.

chicken noodle stirfry

stirfried noodles

Last week, after Thanksgiving, I absconded with my father’s copy of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Hunanese cookbook. I gave it to him for Christmas last year but don’t have a copy myself, so I spent the holiday sighing over the recipes until he offered to let me borrow it for a while. Ha!

I adore Dunlop’s Sichuan cookbook and make stuff from it constantly, but I’ve been intrigued by the spicy, yet more subtle flavors of Hunan. Some of the recipes use pungent ingredients like preserved vegetables, fermented tofu and salted chiles, but many are very simple and lightly flavored with soy, rice wine and aromatics. It seemed like the perfect type of food to make in the inevitable detox weeks after Thanksgiving.

chicken noodle

The first thing I cooked, after we got home and I was feeling a bit frail, was this lovely chicken and mushroom stir-fry with rice noodles. The recipe called for dried shiitakes, which I don’t have, so I used the excellent fresh shiitakes that are grown locally. I was also delighted to find thin-cut chicken breasts at our Co-op, which made it easy to sliver the chicken. The dish was very good, full of vegetables, and refreshing after a long week of heavy eating, with just a little kick of spice to keep it interesting.

Stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and mushrooms

adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook

  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into slivers
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine
  • about 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 pound rice noodles
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salted chiles (I haven’t made these yet, so I used Thai pickled chiles)
  • 1 package bean sprouts
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1 inch lengths
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • sweet chile sauce (optional)

Combine the sliced chicken in a bowl with the soy sauce and rice wine, mix well and set aside.

Cook the rice noodles in boiling water until just done, drain and rinse. (I know everyone always says to just soak them, but I’ve tried this and I’m tired of crunchy noodles)

Put a large wok over high heat and add a couple spoonfuls of peanut oil. Add the chicken and fry until the pieces separate, then add the mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and chiles. When the mushrooms are soft, add the bean sprouts and cook for a moment, then add the noodles and scallions and mix it all up. Add a bit more soy sauce and a little sesame oil to taste. Serve as is, or with additional soy sauce or Thai sweet chile sauce (what we call “sauce for chicken” in our house).

smoky chicken

smoked chicken

It looks like we’re finally getting a dose of summer here this week – just in time for school to start, naturally. I’ve been meaning to post about this grill-smoked chicken we made a few weeks back, maybe I should get it up here before autumn decides to settle in. I’m not likely to make it again any time soon, not because it wasn’t fantastic, but because the chickens we’ve been cooking (from Well Fed Farms) have been enormous and this bird fed us for a really long time, and I’ve had it up to here with the taste of smoked chicken. Hopefully you don’t have that problem, though, so you should totally try this.

spatchcocked and seasonedhorseradish mayo

We got this recipe from the recent barbecue issue of Saveur: a spatchcocked, spice-rubbed chicken cooked very slowly in smoke, then shredded and served on hamburger buns with a mayonnaise-horseradish sauce. It was very rich, so I added rather a lot of chopped green onion to brighten the flavor, then served it all with sliced sauteed zucchini from my garden. The greenery definitely helped – salad would have been good, too, or bread and butter pickles like the recipe suggests. Anything to balance the smoke and mayo. Also, the homemade buns we used were a bit too substantial – this would probably be a good time to use fluffy, squishy storebought buns.

zucchini stars

Maybe by next summer I’ll be able to handle smoked chicken again. I sure hope so.

smoked chicken

tandoori attempt

dinner

Many years ago there was an Indian restaurant in town that really knew its way around a tandoor oven. It closed, of course, leaving us deprived of tandoori chicken and naan. I’ve started experimenting with naan recipes, but I’ve only just gotten around to trying out tandoori chicken at home. Turns out it’s a little tricky.

grilling

Various recipes (I consulted a lot) give very mixed messages. Some tell you to use a very hot oven, others to use a regular temperature oven. Others say to grill over the hottest coals you can manage, others to grill on indirect heat. My own thinking at this point is that a tandoor is rather like a pizza oven – extremely high heat, but without direct exposure to the heat source. The chicken is supposed to cook quickly but not burn. We tried grilling our chicken directly over coals and had trouble getting the meat to cook through without completely charring the outside – I think next time we’ll try a longer, slower technique.

grilling

The main thing that all the recipes had in common was the yogurt-and garam masala-based marinade (made with yogurt drained of some of its whey), rubbed into de-skinned and heavily slashed chicken pieces. I used a marinade from Sanjeev Kapoor’s new book How to Cook Indian, and while it was tasty it seemed far too mild, hardly flavoring the meat at all. In future attempts I will probably get it marinating further ahead of time and add quite a bit more salt.

tandoori chicken

Despite all the difficulties, it made a great dinner, and some really fantastic chicken sandwiches for several days afterwards. More experimentation is certainly called for – anyone else had good luck doing tandoori at home?

saag murgh

dinner

Yet another highly successful recipe from 660 Curries! Saag murgh (chicken with spinach) is a classic Indian dish, and this version kicks it up a little by substituting mustard greens for part of the spinach. Our local grocery, somewhat bafflingly, nearly always has exuberantly fresh mustard greens in its produce department, so this was an easy dish to put together.

mustard greens

spices and yogurt

marinating

Bone-in chicken would give the most flavor, but I used boneless skinless chicken thighs (as I often do – they’re easier to take to work as leftovers). A marinade of spices, cilantro and yogurt gave it excellent flavor.

cooking the chicken

I browned the chicken, took it out of the pan and fried some onions, then added the mixed spinach and mustard greens and used their liquid to scrape up the fond in the pan. The chicken went back in for a long simmer amid the greens. I tried pureeing the greens (minus the chicken) before serving but made the mistake of using the blender instead of the food processor, and nearly exploded the lot. I settled for “pleasantly chunky”, which was still just fine for scooping up with chunks of chicken and fresh Afghan-style naan.

Afghan snowshoe naan

Tai Bai chicken

Tai Bai chicken

We’ve been in the mood for Chinese food a lot lately, but were wanting some new ideas. Opening some Chinese cookbooks at random led me to a chicken recipe in Land of Plenty that I’d never noticed before. It’s called Tai Bai, apparently in honor of the poet Li Bai. It’s easy to put together and involves very little chopping, which is a real selling point some nights. It has no garlic or ginger – the primary flavors are chiles, both dried and pickled, plus Sichuan pepper. It’s moderately fiery, so I wouldn’t recommend this one if you don’t have much spice tolerance. We think it’s delicious.

hot peppers

pickled peppers

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