Today is the last day of the semester, and yesterday was a farewell party (of sorts) for one of my classes. We all had to bring food, and while most people brought doritos or out-of-the-box brownies (which were really chewy, and not in a good way), I decided to make somewhat of a meal.
I called it paella, even though it bares little resemblance to an authentic paella. Especially since I made it in less than an hour right before class. Perhaps I should call this “chicken and rice,” rather than paella.
Excuse this, but I have to: Someone in my class took it upon themselves to remind me that paella is usually made with seafood. So, I returned the advice (?) by telling her that when there is a meat involved, paella is traditionally made with rabbit (or chicken, or really, whatever you have on hand…as paella is what would be called a “peasant dish” because any and all ingredients available go into it). This only provoked another snarky comment regarding the paella she had when she was in Spain, and I resolved to let her rant because it clearly made her feel better to put down the food that I busted my ass to make before class. I just want to say, I know what I made isn’t authentic paella, but I did put effort into what I brought. I left work an hour early to make it. When she learns how to make proper, not-soggy deviled eggs (they were so soggy, they fell apart..no exaggeration), she can come to me with paella instructions.
Now that that little story is out of the way, I’d have to say that the chicken and rice came out pretty well. The chicken was especially flavorful because I threw it in a marinade the night before. It involved red wine vinegar, cilantro, bay leaves, pepper and lots of paprika. What the exact proportions of all the ingredients were, I’ll never know. If you want to make an authentic paella, I advise you to go here. It is the most authentic recipe I’ve yet to find, and I’ve been searching for months. I really ought to invest in a paella pan…perhaps I’ll add that to my ever-growing summer “to do” list.
Anyway, that takes care of my chicken and rice inventory. Now, all I have left in the freezer are some miscellaneous berries, two chicken drumsticks, and two pork chops. Plus an assortment of leftover pork, “paella,” and spanakoptia. Will this tide me over until Monday night? Perhaps, especially since I need to use up the last of my spaghetti. It will be interesting…
Hope you enjoyed that fun fact for this evening. It’s an oldie, but goodie.
Anyway, I had no idea what I was doing for dinner tonight. I knew it would involve chicken, but had no other plans. Today was not conducive to planning out a meal.
So, I threw a bunch of random things into a pot (and then a pan), and called it a meal. It came out tasting, well, really damn good.
2 chicken breasts
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water (or good chicken stock if you have any)
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 or 5 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
freshly cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1. in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add the balsamic vinegar and half the water. bring to a light boil so the acid cooks out. i’d give this about 10 minutes (you’ll know the acid has been cooked off once it doesn’t sting your nose when you take a whiff). if the level of the liquid seems to be too low, add the other half of the water.
2. meanwhile, in a large saute pan with sides, heat 1-2 tbsp butter and 1-2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. once the butter is foaming, add the chopped onions and cook until brown and caramelized.
3. add the soy sauce, bay leaf, and thyme to the balsamic vinegar. turn the heat down so it simmers. if need be, add more water.
4. rinse and pat the chicken dry. sprinkle liberally with turmeric, basil, and ginger. i tend to go light on the ginger because i’m least fond of it.
5. once onions are browned, add the vinegar mixture to the pan. scrape up any brown bits and give it a stir. add the chicken and cover. cook on medium heat for about 7-10 minutes (depending on the size of your cuts of chicken). after about 10 minutes, turn the chicken over and cook for another 7-10 minutes. remove the chicken to a plate once cooked, and crank the heat up to high. boil the sauce so it reduces by about half. there should be barely enough liquid in the pan to coat the entire bottom.
For whatever reason, I thought this worked really, really well. The turmeric and basil are a weird combination, but it worked for me. It was a weird….pan-asian, italian fusion. The chicken came out really tender, too, which is always a plus. I’ve been eating a lot of dark chicken meat lately (it’s cheaper), and have forgotten how much I enjoy white meat. People argue white meat has no flavor. I disagree – its flavor is just different than dark meat, and it’s just as good.
I’ve mentioned my food crisis here before. I move out in less than two weeks, and have tons of meat in my freezer. And tons of leftovers in my refrigerator. There’s nothing worse than wasted food, in my opinion. So, what oh what to do?
Well, in an effort to put the kibosh on my chicken leftovers, I improvised some “chicken salad.” It isn’t really chicken salad because it doesn’t involve cups of mayo and other such things. I’d argue this was much, much better as a result.
I didn’t really keep track of proportions or how much of what ingredients I was using (I was rushing out the door to the library) but I scooped in SOME mayo, lots of whole grain mustard (I use Maille; I find it’s the best), and like two or three sprigs of fresh thyme. I chopped up a leftover chicken thigh and combined everything in a bowl. I have about half left over for today, and I’m thinking about putting some cheese on the sandwich. It’d be good with pesto, too.
See? Leftovers can be so useful….
It seems as though we’re entering yet another cold and rainy weekend here in Boston. While depressing, it is conducive to getting 2 papers and 1 project done (or at least started).
Thursday night, I decided it was time for some comfort food–or at least my interpretation of it. I wanted fried chicken, but didn’t really have the means of deep frying it. So, I pan fried some chicken thighs that were coated in panko bread crumbs.
panko bread crumbs (or whatever you have on hand)
2 chicken thighs
salt & pepper
1. In a medium saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat.
2. Rinse and pat the chicken dry. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Break the egg into a bowl, beat it and thin it out with a little bit of water.
4. Put some bread crumbs into a second bowl, preferably next to the one with the egg.
5. Dunk the chicken into the egg bowl. Coat completely. Then, dunk the chicken into the bread crumbs bowl. Coat completely. Repeat if you want more coverage.
6. Saute chicken on both sides until firm when poked.
So, there you have it. It’s a really easy, quick meal, and it’s a somewhat healthier substitute for actual fried chicken.
I feel like it has rained every Tuesday for the past month. It’s starting to bum me out.
So, to lift my spirits, I made something special for lunch today. And by special, I mean not a sandwich.
Yummm. It is spring, which means strawberries. These, unfortunately, were the last of my little stash. The almond butter and strawberry combination is one of the most mood-lifting tastes out there. Something about strawberries always puts me in a good mood, though. I slathered a piece of lavash bread (a Lebanese flatbread) with almond butter (the more, the better in my opinion) and topped it with about 5 sliced strawberries. Then, roll.
So, it comes out kind of like a skinny burrito of sorts. But it’s so, so good. And not to mention, healthy. I try not to endorse the “EAT THIS, AND A LOT OF IT….BECAUSE IT’S HEALTHY” attitude that so often circulates throughout mainstream culture in the US, but this is damn good. Drizzle a little honey over top the strawberries and almond butter for a little something extra, and you’ve got an awesome lunch. There’s tons of protein in the almond butter, this lavash bread has a lot of fiber to it, and strawberries are full of carbohydrates (among many other good things) to keep you energized throughout your afternoon.
And now, for dinner. In keeping with the berry theme my lunch ran with, I made some chicken with a raspberry and red wine vinegar sauce. The original recipe is blackberry and balsamic roast quail…but I had neither quail nor blackberries, so chicken thighs and raspberries worked. I haven’t been using my red wine vinegar lately, so I used it instead of the seemingly omnipresent balsamic vinegar.
Chicken with a Raspberry and Red Wine Vinegar Sauce adapted from here
2 chicken thighs
1/2 c raspberries
1/2 c red wine vinegar
2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
generous bunch of collard greens
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1. Heat vinegar and raspberries in a small saucepan. Mash the raspberries and reduce the liquid to half the volume, add in thyme, salt, pepper – set aside and let cool.
2. Heat some olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions until translucent or caramelized, then transfer to raspberry mix.
3. Heat some more olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan with sides. Add the collard greens. Cover and cook until wilted. Add some salt and pepper.
4. Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs. Coat with salt and pepper. In yet another saute pan, heat some oil over medium. Add the chicken, and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until chicken is firm to the touch.
5. Pour sauce over chicken, serve.
I’ve gotta say, the sauce was really good. I’m not a huge fan of the sweet-savory combination, but this was good. I made some deviations from the original recipe, as you can see. I definitely intend to try the original recipe at some point, it looks delicious.
And for dessert, I had (a lot of) cheese and a pear. I love cheese.
All right, perhaps Thursday I will make a second attempt at tahdig using lavash bread instead of potatoes. Though, what to make with the tahdig is still being decided….
Good evening, everyone.
Today I decided to attempt east Asian cuisine. After pouring over many blogs in search of a recipe suited for someone admittedly unfamiliar with cuisine from this vast region, I decided to make adobo.
Adobo is a Filipino method of cooking meat with vinegar. When the Spanish came to the Philippines, they observed the cooking practices of native Filipinos and labeled them adobo. In Spanish, adobo means seasoning or marinade. Essentially, that’s exactly what the meat in this dish do: they stew in a vinegar and soy sauce based sauce with about four other ingredients.
Adobo is really central to the oft-overlooked Filipino cuisine. I’d love to learn more about Filipino food, as I feel the food culture for the Philippines gets little to no attention. Below is the recipe, with my substitutions/alterations as noted.
Adobo as adapted from here
2 chicken drumsticks
1/2 c white rice vinegar*
1/4 c soy sauce
3/4-1 c water
1 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
8-10 cloves garlic, slightly smashed, skins left on
2 bay leaves
freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste
1. put all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and leave for 30 minutes to marinate.
2. place the pot over medium heat. add 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil. lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer without stirring (seriously, no. stirring.) until most of the vinegar acid has cooked off. how will you know if it’s cooked off? open your bottle of vinegar and sniff. that stung, right? well, once the vinegar acid has cooked off, it won’t do that.
3. keep simmering until the chicken is tender, which will take about 40 minutes. taste the sauce. if it’s too salty or sharp, add more water.
4. when the chicken is tender, remove it and set it aside. you can mash SOME of the garlic into the sauce.
5. keep simmering on low for about 30-60 minutes, or until a fork pierces oxtails like it would with butter. remove the oxtails, set aside.
6. keep simmering until the sauce has reduced to your desired consistency. meanwhile, heat some oil in a saute pan over medium heat. once hot, add the chicken and oxtails and fry on all sides. the goal is to get a crispy exterior. this, however, is optional.
7. add the chicken and oxtails back to the sauce, toss to coat.
This dish is traditionally paired with white rice, which is great for soaking up some of the delicious sauce.
*the original recipe calls for pork belly and white cane vinegar, neither of which I could find.
If you’ve never made this before, I can assure it is easy and the end result blows you away. The vinegar adds some tang, while the small amount of soy sauce lends a hint of flavor and a lot of color. The garlic is not at all overpowering, contrary to what you may expect with 8-10 cloves. I simmered this with a lid on because the liquid did not cover the meat. I’m not actually sure if it’s supposed to, but nevertheless, I felt the oxtails would benefit from the pressure. And they did. The oxtails were SO TENDER – they came out better than they did the first time I made them. When I stuck a fork into one of the tails, it just melted right into the meat. oohhhhhh mannnnn……so. good. The chicken was equally as good. It was extremely flavorful (an accomplishment for chicken, some may argue) and it just pulled apart. No knife needed whatsoever. This is a comfort food dish in every sense of the term – very satisfying and a pleasure to eat. If you’re having a bad day or are approaching a stressful week, make this. Just…do it.
Side note. I deviated from my ritual almond butter and (insert add on here) sandwich today (although, an almond butter + strawberry sandwich is AMAZING). After hitting the gym, I walked to Trader Joe’s to pick up some chicken and ended up getting a bunch of other stuff too (no surprise there). After walking past the cheese section about 4 times, I relented to my gnawing urge to buy some cheese. I’m constantly on the look out for a new, exciting cheese.
My latest obsession had been Manchego, so I decided to go for another Spanish cheese. I find Spanish cheeses are overlooked in favor of French or Italian ones. So, I bought a block of Iberico cheese. Then I had a sudden impulse to get a really sharp, pungent cheddar. My search for a blow-your-face-off cheddar is everlasting, and with high hopes I purchased some English-made cheddar today.
I planned to have a cheese sandwich for lunch, and bought a nice demi baguette to complete my vision.
It was suggested that I put some butter and dijon mustard on a sandwich like this, but the thought of butter and cheese sort of turns my stomach. Unfortunately, I have no good mustard on hand, so this was just a plain cheese sandwich. The cheese is good, but not even close to what I was after. All in all, it was a really good sandwich. I should get baguettes more often, particularly the smaller ones. They are perfect for lunch, and they were quite inexpensive (which is always important).
Good evening everyone.
I begin the new month with an experimentation, of sorts. I tried my hand at jujeh kebab and tahdig.
For those unfamiliar with Persian cuisine, jujeh kebab is essentially marinaded chicken, skewered and grilled. Unfortunately, I don’t have an actual grill. I do have a George Foreman grill, though! Yeah, it’s not the same at all. There’s no charred, smokey flavor. There’s no real grill marks. But, it is compact and efficient and I use it to grill my sandwiches almost every day.
Tahdig is actually less a food and more a product of cooking rice in a certain way. After cooking the rice, you let it sit in the pan for about an hour so it forms a delicious crust on the bottom. Usually basmati rice is used for this. I love crusty rice, particularly with paella. There are a few different types of tahdig, and I chose to make mine with potato slices.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any basmati or long grain, white rice around. So, I had to use brown rice. Either this negatively affected my dish, or perhaps I added too much olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Either way, the rice did not have as much of a crust as I had hoped for, and I had it on the stove for nearly an hour over low heat (to prevent burning). It was good, don’t get me wrong, I would have just preferred a thicker crust.
Jujeh kebab adapted from here
1 chicken thigh
1 cup greek yogurt (i recommend either fage or chobani. if you don’t have greek yogurt, take plain yogurt and place it in some cheesecloth. either hang this over a bowl or place it in a strainer that fits over a bowl. strain for 3 hours in the refrigerator, and you’ve got greek yogurt)
3 or so TBSP turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 a lime
1. in a bowl, combine the yogurt, turmeric, salt, pepper, and lime juice. combine well. it should be a nice yellow color. put the chicken in the bowl, toss to coat. either cover this with plastic wrap and put that in the refrigerator, or place this mix into a ziploc bag, squish it around, and then place it in the refrigerator. your call. let this marinade over night.
2. you can do any of the following: grill the chicken on an outdoor grill, grill it on your george foreman, bake it, or broil the chicken. i leave that to you. i did mine on the george foreman grill set to medium heat for about 10 minutes.
The chicken was very flavorful. I will never understand why people snub their noses at turmeric by calling it the poor man’s saffron. Saffron = yellow, but tasteless. It comes from a pretty flower, though. Anyway, the squeeze of lime really brightens the chicken quite a lot. It blends well with the tang of the yogurt. It’d be EVEN better on a real grill, but I digress.
Tahdig with Potato adapted from here
1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 gold potato, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds
1 TBSP saffron water (steep the saffron in hot water until the water is golden)
1. in a medium saucepan, add 2 TBSP olive oil. add the saffron water and some salt, stir to combine.
2. place the potato rounds on the bottom of the saucepan. lay the rice over this, and cook for about an hour on low heat. if you get impatient, crank it up to medium for the last 15-30 minutes or so.
The other bummer about brown rice is that you can’t really see the little bit of crust that did manage to take form. The rice was good, and the potatoes were nice and crunchy. Next time, I will definitely be using basmati rice and I am going to try and make the tahdig with bread instead of potatoes. I must conquer this.
Tomorrow? Braised oxtails!
I have decided that this week will focus on comfort foods.
Stewing is a great way of putting meat and vegetables together and coming out with a tender, flavorful dish. Stewing, as far as I can tell, is the preferred cooking method for many comfort foods. It makes sense, historically speaking. People did not have the luxury of picking and choosing lean cuts of meat. The tougher parts needed some extra time to cook, and what better way of doing that than stewing? It’s the “set it and forget it” of the olden days.
Tonight’s dish comes from Iraq. It’s called Thareed (depending on who is transliterating, it could be spelled a number of ways), and is essentially a chicken and chick pea stew. It’s Iraqi comfort food to say the least, and is traditionally served with a bread called khubz al-tannour.
The recipe I originally had for this was for serving 6 people, so I scaled it back and used only what I had on hand. So, it’s my take on Thareed.
*the following is for one serving, with some leftovers*
1 chicken thigh, cut in half
1 yellow onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 small golden potatoes, quartered
1 can white beans
1 bay leaf
1 TBSP turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
3 c water
salt & pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
Flatbread of your liking
After gathering your ingredients, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onions, potatoes, bay leaf, turmeric, garam masala and salt. Cook until onions and potatoes are browned, about 10 minutes.
Add the chicken and water to the mix, stirring. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium and simmer uncovered until the chicken is tender. This will take about 25 minutes.
Add the beans. Cook for another 5 or so minutes. Ladle the stew over the flatbread. Squeeze some lemon or lime over, and you’re set.
The original recipe calls for curry powder, *not* garam masala. I did not have curry powder on hand, so I used what I felt was closest. The original recipe also calls for chick peas, *not* white beans. Again, I had no chick peas on hand. I also had no flatbread, and used leftover rice instead. If I had to do it over, I’d get the curry powder and I’d get the bread. I think the dish suffered without these ingredients. Although this dish wasn’t what I would consider a complete success, it happens and you, reader(s) should know.
Overall, I think this dish has pushed me toward one conclusion: I’m sick of stews at this point. This meal was hearty and flavorful, but I think I’ve stewed myself to capacity (I blame you, winter).
Tomorrow, I am off to a screening of Shutter Island, and Wednesdays are my leftover days…Thursday’s dinner: Golabki (Stuffed cabbage)!
Happy Monday, and happy February, everyone.
On tonight’s menu: Chicken Biryani.
For those that just said, “chicken whaaaat?” allow me to explain. Every culture has its staple meat and rice dish, whether it’s paella, jumbalaya, or well, biryani.
Chicken biryani is a prolific chicken and rice dish that can be found in some form from Iran to Malaysia. However, it is most commonly associated with India. A simple blend of spices, garlic and onions make this dish exactly what it is: delicious. It’s comforting, it’s classic, and it’s prized.
As with most staple dishes, everyone cooks it differently. I cannot remember where I got this recipe from, so if it’s not very traditional or authentic, I apologize in advance. This dish takes patience, but your efforts will surely be rewarded. Inspiration for this dish was taken from here.
For the chicken:
4-5 chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp oil
For the rice:
3 quarts water
1 tsp salt
10 cardamom pods crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
2 cups basmati rice
For the onion mixture:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp salt
For the presentation:
saffron, some mint & cilantro
Before you begin, add some saffron to some hot water. Let it soak until you use it.
1. For the chicken: mash the garlic, salt, ginger, garam masala, pepper, and oil into a paste. Coat the chicken pieces with it. You may find you need more of this mix for your chicken.
2. In a deep pot, add water, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and the bay leaf. Cover, bring to simmer on medium-low heat.
3. Heat a large pan over medium-high. Add some oil, then add the chicken. Sautee until brown (about 3 minutes), then flip to brown the other side.
4. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the onions and sautee until they are a dark brown. Then, add the chiles, garlic, garam masala, ginger, and salt. Cook until fragrant. Remove from heat, set aside.
5. Turn the heat for the water up and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes. Drain reserving 1-1 1/2 cups of the liquid.
6. Put half of the rice into a large pot. Sprinkle some of the saffron water over the rice. Add some mint and cilantro here, too. Spread half the onion mix over this, and put the chicken on top of that. Cover this with the rest of the rice, then the rest of the onions. Top with the rest of the mint, cilantro, saffron. Pour some of your reserved liquid over top as well.
7. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes.
It comes out wonderfully, trust me. This recipe is, of course, for 4 people. I altered it to fit it for 2 people, but no alterations are worth noting as I followed the recipe pretty exactly. As you can see, I did not have basmati rice (which I wasn’t happy about, but oh well). I added some turmeric when I was sprinkling the saffron water on the rice. I think it adds another level of flavor, plus it kicks the yellow color up.
So, three great days of cooking in a row. It cannot be! Usually an unsatisfying recipe gets in the way. I’ll be taking the next two nights off from cooking, but Thursday I’ll be back with a good pasta dish.
Until Thursday –
Ah, yes. Turmeric has quickly become my go-to spice of choice. It lends a saffron-yellow color to the dish with the added bonus of FLAVOR. No, saffron does not have flavor. It is an aromatic spice typically used for coloring. It–like lobster–is indicative of luxury, and lacks much else. (I only mention that about saffron because I have come across people who truly believe it has a taste. I taste nothing.) Anyway, turmeric is used frequently in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, both of which I happen to be very fond of.
Tonight I revamped a navy bean soup I made once upon a time. It’s been floating around in my freezer for…oh, perhaps a month and a half, maybe two months. Needless to say it began to collect quite a bit of ice. So, what to do with an iced-over soup?
Dump it into a sauce pan, and throw tons of things into it. Make it new again. Give it back what it once had: flavor.
And that is what I did. This started out as a pretty plain soup consisting of navy beans, onions, a little garlic, a bay leaf, and a variety of dried herbs.
To it, I added some leftover chicken, 1/2 tsp – 3/4 tsp of turmeric, 1/2 tsp-3/4 tsp of tobasco sauce, the juice of half a lemon, 1 chopped leek, 1 chopped carrot, some chopped fresh parsley, and some chopped fresh thyme. I let it simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until the carrots and the already cooked chicken were quite tender. For what was once a hunk of ice and beans, it tasted damn good.
Experiment with your leftovers! What bad could possibly come of it?