November 22, 2009

Southwestern Skillet Dinner

I like one-pot meals. The clean up is easy, the leftovers transport well for lunches to work or school, and the potential for variety is infinite. That said, it's true that most of my skillet dinners feature rice or pasta or beans, or some two out of the three. Even so, this gives me choices ranging from creamy Tarragon Chicken Farfalle (influenced by French and Italian cuisines) to Southwestern Skillet Dinner shown here (nods to jambalaya, arroz con pollo, and the fabulous flavours of the American southwest).

The genesis for this recipe is from a previous dish I devised, the Southwestern Chicken Skillet, which suggests serving over rice or pasta. This variation omits the gravy-making slurry stage and the sour cream, and incorporates the rice right into the dish. Sour cream, of course, can be added as a garnish. A little cilantro right at the end wouldn't go amiss, either.

At Palle's request, we went with chunks of chicken thigh, rather than ground chicken for this version, and I really think that's the right call for an all-in-one dish like this. Served over rice, go with the ground or chunks, but with the rice mixed in, you want solid pieces of chicken.

When you get to the gravy-making stage, instead of making a slurry, simply add one cup (200 g) of parboiled rice, and one and half to two cups of water, depending on whether your pre-rice mixture is wet or dry and how soupy you would like the finished dish to be. I usually go with two cups. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, turn the heat to very low, and let cook undisturbed until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and gotten tender - 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how low your burner goes. If the mixture is still a bit wet, raise the heat and remove the lid for the last few minutes of cooking, and let the excess moisture evaporate away.

November 02, 2009

Scotch Eggs for dinner

This is technically also part of the Japanese cookery kick that I'm on right now.

I love Scotch eggs, but they're pretty few and far between on menus in these parts. Except, that is, for at Ping's, the funky little Yoshoku (western influenced Japanese comfort food) restaurant that opened up a year or two ago in my neighbourhood. Turns out, the Japanese are quite keen on the whole philosophy of Scotch eggs, and have embraced the idea of wrapping meat around a cooked, peeled egg and then dumping it into the fryer.

I don't tend to deep fry food at home, thanks to the mess and expense of the oil, so I had long considered Scotch eggs of any stripe to be out of my production possibilities. However, after seeing some pretty cute online versions that had been baked instead of fried, I figured the time had come to give it a whirl.

I figured I'd go with Japanese flavourings, so I used ground pork, which is what I had at hand, and seasoned it with a little ginger, soy sauce, white pepper, and garlic. I wrapped very thin patties around slightly under-cooked peeled, boiled eggs. Then, I baked them for about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating half way through. They stuck a bit while I was turning them, so parchment paper might be useful next time.

My sealing techniques were a bit dodgy, so some of the meat casing cracked along the seam where I had pressed the edges together, but overall the experiment was wildly successful. Delicious, in fact, and made even better by the fact of leftover Scotch eggs to take to work the following day. I intend to tweak this recipe over and over until I get perfect results on all the eggs. In the meantime, even the slightly lopsided ones are mighty good eats.

The rest of the meal sort of speaks for itself: simple onigiri (no filling, still practising the shaping side of things), a spinach and sesame salad (minus the actual sesame seeds which, it turned out, I was out of), and some beginner-level carved radishes, for a touch of kawai.