Showing posts with label Chiles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chiles. Show all posts

August 20, 2017

Hainanese Chicken Rice


One of the quintessential dishes of Singaporean cuisine, Hainanese Chicken Rice is a bone-deep satisfying meal dished up everywhere from Hawker’s Markets to fancy restaurants. It is an excellent example of how ingredient repetition need not render a meal boring or feel repetitive - the ginger, sesame oil, and garlic are powerful flavours, but come across differently in each item on the finished plate.

This recipe serves 2-4 people (or more, if you double the rice), but in our house it is the start of a multi-meal whose leftovers evolve into two more dishes over the following days (see Multi-meal, at the bottom of this post).

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Chicken
1 whole chicken (about 1.5 kg)
Fresh cool water to cover the chicken
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus extra for exfoliation (as described below)
5 cm chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 stalks green onions, cut into two-inch lengths
Basin of ice water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (for after the chicken is cooked)

Rice
15 mL (1 tablespoon) chicken fat or canola oil
1 large clove garlic, minced or crushed
15 mL (1 tablespoon) minced fresh ginger
200 grams (1 cup) raw basmati rice, washed until the water runs clear
310 mL (1 1/4 cups) reserved chicken poaching broth
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 pinch kosher salt

Chile Sauce
15 mL (1 tablespoon) fresh lime juice
30 mL (2 tablespoons) reserved chicken poaching broth
10 mL (2 teaspoons) sugar
60 mL (4 tablespoons) Sriracha sauce
4 cloves garlic
30 mL (2 tablespoons) minced fresh ginger
a pinch of salt, to taste

To serve
Dark soy sauce (in a dish, or just the bottle)
Green onion, finely sliced on the bias
Cucumber, thinly sliced

First, you must exfoliate the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out and place on a clean plate. Use a small handful of kosher or pickling salt to gently massage the chicken all over, being careful not to tear the skin if possible. Rinse the salt away and stuff the chicken with the ginger slices and green onion pieces. Place the chicken in a large stockpot and add fresh cold water to cover (it’s okay if it doesn’t quite cover - the breast will still cook if it sticks up above the water level). Add salt. Cover and bring the pot just barely to a boil over high heat, then immediately turn the heat to low to keep a bare simmer, checking from time to time. Simmer for about 40 minutes (less for smaller chickens).

While the chicken simmers, get your mise en place in order for the chile sauce and the rice. That means, mince the ginger for both the rice and the sauce, peel the garlic and set aside, and wash, wash, wash the rice in cool water until it runs clear. Set the rice aside in a strainer to drain. You can put the sauce ingredients all (except for the broth) into a blender cup now, if you like.

Once the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Carefully lift the chicken from the broth (I lift it by inserting a wooden spoon into the centre and tilting it up so that the juices run out of the cavity) and into a basin of ice water to cool. You will need the broth for the rice, sauce, and side bowl of soup. I like to have my basin in the sink, so that I can and add more fresh cold water over the chicken to help the skin achieve the firm, springy texture associated with this dish, and I like to change the cold water once as it rests. Let the chicken rest in the cold water while you start cooking the rice. Remove any aromatics (ginger, green onion) from the broth, and return the pot of broth to the stove to stay warm over low heat.

Rice: You rice should by now have been rinsed and drained and is resting nearby in a sieve. Heat the chicken fat or canola oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the ginger and the garlic and pinch of salt, and stir fry until fragrant but not coloured. Add the sesame oil and then drained rice and stir to coat each grain with the fat and seasonings.

If you’re cooking the rice on the stovetop, add the 310 mL of hot poaching broth to the rice and stir it through. Turn the heat to the lowest setting, and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Set the timer for 15 minutes, and when it rings remove the rice pot from the hot burner and, without lifting the lid, set it aside to rest somewhere for another 15 minutes. Fluff, and it's ready to serve.

If you’re cooking the rice in a rice cooker, use a spatula to scrape the rice/fat/seasoning mixture into the rice cooker, add the poaching broth, and then turn it on according to your rice cooker’s instructions.

While the rice is cooking, remove the chicken from its ice bath and pat dry with paper towels. Using your impeccably clean fingers, rub the outside of the chicken with the sesame oil, and let it stand until needed. Just before the rice is finished resting, carve the chicken for serving and arrange on plates, and then add the rice once it's ready. For a nice tidy dome of rice, pack it lightly into a measuring cup and overturn onto the plate. I find a 3/4-cup measure works perfectly, yielding 4 portions of rice from 200 grams (1 cup) of raw rice.

Chile Sauce: combine all chile sauce ingredients in a blender cup and process until smooth. Stick blenders work very well for this. The first time I made this, I didn’t have access to any mechanical means to puree it, so I simply finely chopped everything by hand. That also worked very nicely, but it was of course not a smooth sauce.

Soup: You should have several cups of the chicken-poaching broth available. Ladle into small bowls and garnish with some finely sliced green onion.

Serve the chicken and rice with cucumber slices, and a bowl of the soup on the side. Place the chile sauce and some dark soy sauce on the table for individuals to use at will.



Multi-meal

I mentioned at the start of this post that this is a multi-meal dish for our household of two (your mileage may vary, depending on your family size - for bigger families, you would want to have doubled the rice recipe above). This is what I do:

Finally, after you’ve eaten and had a little rest, strip the remaining chicken meat from the bones, and put in a container in the fridge. As for the bones, you can either discard them, or add them back into the soup pot and simmer them for another hour or so for a much stronger broth. Cool and strain the broth, and transfer to fridge/freezer friendly containers. Cool and refrigerate any leftover rice.

The next day, leftover rice and about half of the leftover chicken meat are converted into fried rice (this is an especially good use for any leftover skin!) with the addition of a little extra onion, ginger, garlic, beaten egg, low-sodium soy sauce, any any other vegetables you’ve got kicking around. (For fried rice technique, please see my post on fried rice, and adapt as necessary.) Serve with leftover chile sauce, if you have any.

The following day, the leftover broth (or some of it) is used to make congee, by adding some water, washed raw rice, and the remaining chicken meat (added at the very end). Serve with leftover chile sauce, if you have any.

Alternatively, you could stash all of the broth in the freezer and use that instead of water for the next time you want to make Hainanese Chicken Rice. Because, there will be a next time. If you have lots of broth, you can split the difference.

Three delicious meals from one master-meal.

August 06, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Buffalo wings have run deliciously amok. What started out as a simple bar snack, has since become everything from pasta to dip to casserole to pizza, and gone through some interesting ingredient iterations: some folks swap out the blue cheese dressing for ranch, and some even switch the chicken with cauliflower. The configurations seem endless, and that's good news for those of us who love our hot sauce oriented food.

This particular pizza is a pretty stripped down version of the classic combination of Frank's Red Hot sauce, chicken, and blue cheese dressing. Because it's pizza, I've added a final layer of shredded mozzarella, just to tie it all together. I've dispensed with the traditional carrot and celery sticks, although you could either serve them alongside (which would be appropriate) or dice them finely and use them as a topping - but I think they would be a bit of a distraction there. So.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

1 Standard pizza

! batch pizza crust dough (see below)
125 mL (1/2 cup) creamy blue cheese dressing (or more to taste)
350 grams cooked, shredded chicken
60 mL (1/4 cup) Frank's Red Hot sauce (original)
1 tablespoon butter
200 grams shredded mozzarella

Dough

3/4 cup warm water (not hot)
1-2 teaspoons active dry yeast (use 1 tablespoon if you have the time to let it rise)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Approximately 2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Test the water by sticking your impeccably clean finger in it. If it's pleasantly warm, but not hot, you're good to go. If not, adjust as needed. Pour warm water into a medium sized mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the water and let stand for about five minutes. The yeast will soften, and gradually start to foam up to the top of the water. This usually only takes a few minutes, but if your water is quite cool it might take a little longer. Once the yeast has gotten foamy, stir in the olive oil (or canola, if you don't have olive oil) and 1/2 cup of the flour.

Stir until combined into a sort of paste, and then beat vigorously for 100 strokes all in the same direction. It sounds silly, but this is the basis for a very smooth dough, and it doesn't actually take very long at all. A wooden spoon is ideal for the job. Once your mixture is smooth and silky-looking, add the salt and 1 cup of flour. Stir until the flour is mostly incorporated - it gets very stiff very quickly - and then turn out onto a clean counter to knead. Add more flour as you need it, if the dough seems sticky or wet.

Knead the dough briskly for about five minutes, or until it comes together in a satiny ball and is no longer sticky. Let the dough rest on the counter while you wash out the bowl that you started it in. Wash and dry the bowl, and spritz with a little oil. Place your dough into the bowl (turn it over once so that a little oil gets on the top) and cover with a towel while you prepare your toppings. The dough doesn't need to rise double in size (although it's fine if it does) but it should show some signs of life when you get back to it - be softer and a little risen.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 220°C / 450°F, with the rack placed in the middle. Prepare a pizza pan by sprinkling a generous amount of cornmeal in a thin layer over it, or lightly oiling.

Toppings

In a small skillet, heat the butter and hot sauce together and stir well to integrate (a whisk might help). Add the shredded chicken and toss/stir to thoroughly coat.

Press the dough out evenly on your pan. If the dough is still a bit tense, it might take a little longer, but this amount of dough will fit a full sized pizza pan. Just be patient and keep pressing it out, even if it tries to spring back, or let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Once the dough is stretched to the full size of the pan, spread the blue cheese (or ranch, if you must) dressing evenly over it, leaving a little uncovered around the edge. Use a big spoon or your fingers to distribute the sauced up chicken over the dressing, and then add your mozzarella.



Slide the pan into your preheated oven and bake for at least 12 - 15 minutes (depending on your oven, maybe a little more), or until the crust is golden and delicious.

Slide pizza onto cutting board and pretend you're going to share. Put the rest of the bottle of Frank's Red Hot on the table...and try not to burn your mouth from devouring everything too quickly.

Note about foil: If you have cleverly put down a layer of foil in the bottom of your oven to protect it from drips, know that this is going to have a negative impact on the cooking time and browning of your pizza - especially the bottoms thereof. Put a baking sheet down there if you must, but foil really screws with the heat flow in an oven, and things take much longer to cook (and don't brown evenly). It might not affect other recipes, but it's terrible for pizza and pie crusts.



I added an extra perimeter of cheese and popped mine back in the oven for a couple of minutes, because it seemed like a good idea. It was. If you have some nice, mild, crumbly Danish blue cheese, that would go perfectly here.

June 17, 2017

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs (and Bibimbap)



My first experience of Korean-Mexican fusion was a Korean Taco Truck in Vancouver a few years back. Almost immediately, curiosity overwhelmed confusion and I decided that this was something I really needed to try. So, I bellied up to the window and got myself an order of mixed tacos - Galbi (short rib) and Bulgogi (shredded beef). On the plate, it's easy to see why these two amazing cuisines can come together so deliciously, despite the huge geographical distance and cultural differences.

Since that first unexpected demonstration of fusion that really works, the combination of Korean and Mexican has shown up again and again, and it seems to get tastier each time. And then I received a package from some friends in Australia, which included a bottle of Chipotle Gochujang sauce from their local restaurant, Hispanic Mechanic.

Gochujang is an essential ingredient in Korean cuisine; a spicy, fermented chilli paste that is used either on its own and as a base for other sauces. The spiciness of this condiment predates New World peppers, with the heat in those earlier versions being likely provided by sancho (Zanthoxylum piperitum) and black pepper, although chillies have been used since at least the early 1600s. This particular fusion iteration relied on chipotle, a smoked, dried jalapeño pepper, and is more the texture of a thick Mexican-style hot sauce.

Now, I'm not gonna lie, the first date the sauce had in our house was with some pork neck steaks in a presentation that skewed neither east nor west (but was delicious), but after gawking at the Hispanic Mechanic menu, I was determined to hunt down some beef spare ribs. I wasn't able to find the thin, flanken cut that would be closer to what is used in a traditional Korean Galbi recipe, so I opted for braising rather than grilling - Galbijjim (갈비찜, Galbi Jjim, or Kalbi Jjim), more or less, rather than grilled Galbi. I'm looking forward to trying this sauce with pulled chicken, too.

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs

1 kg Short ribs, browned in 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
5 fresh large shiitake, sliced in half (stems removed)
1/4 cup less sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
2 Tablespoons chipotle gochujang
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
3 scallions
4 cloves garlic
2 cups beef or veal broth
1 inch ginger, chopped
3 red chiles, deseeded

Braise 3 hours in an oven preheated to 170°C (340°F), remove the meat from bone, shred, mix with some braising liquid. There may be some fatty bits, and you don't want to wholly discard those. Chop up some of it and mix it in with the meat and braising liquid. If you have a lot of fat, you won't want to use it all or it will be too rich. Thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms and set aside as a separate item.

And what did we do with this marvellous, meltingly tender and unctuous short rib meat? We made Bibimbap, of course.



Bibimbap (비빔밥) is Korean for "mixed rice" and is generally made by adding various toppings to a base of one of a number of different rice varieties. It is often served in a (very hot) heated stone bowl, but not always. There is a tremendous variation from one bibimbap to the next, as it is infinitely customizable depending on what toppings are available and/or selected, from all vegetarian, to a mixture of meat and vegetables, to raw egg (or egg yolk) added at the last minute (usually in the hot stone bowl versions). There is a wonderful array of different flavours and textures to enjoy.

For our Bibimbap, I went with plain, white, medium-grain rice, the shredded short rib meat and braised shiitake mushrooms, ginger-soy braised cabbage, sesame carrot, and an absolutely fantastic zucchini bokkeum (볶음, stir fry) that is good hot or cold and makes a terrific banchan (반찬, side dish). It will get its own post very soon (I note that banchan are normally served in the middle of the table, for diners to help themselves, but I couldn't resist putting it right in the bowl for the picture). Final garnish was shredded green onion, although if I'd had them at the time, I would have added Mexican pickled red onion. In fact, we made tacos from the remaining short rib meat a couple of days later, for which I whipped up a batch of the pickled onions expressly.

While there are an assortment of different sauces used as the finishing touch on a bowl of bibimbap (including, for example ssamjang, sesame sauce, citrus-soy, and a variety of spicy options, often based on gochujang) we went with more of the chipotle gochujang, which amplified the flavours used in the braising liquid.

May 27, 2017

Coliflor a la Huancaína: Cauliflower with Peruvian Spicy Cheese Sauce


Salsa a la Huancaína, a spicy, Peruvian, fresh cheese sauce made with yellow Ají Amarillo chiles, is normally served over cold, boiled potatoes. It is a very popular appetizer, and like many Peruvian dishes, is often served with hard boiled eggs and black olives as a garnish.

The sauce itself takes very little time to whip together if you are using jarred Ají Amarillo puree, as it requires no cooking - just a brief stint in the blender or food processor (you could, of course, go full traditional and use a mortar and pestle). I used an stick/immersion blender.

As you can see, I've served it over roasted cauliflower instead of potatoes. This is partly because I had some cauliflower that was in desperate need of use, and partly because the potatoes in my pantry had started to grow, taking them effectively out of the equation. But we know that cauliflower loves cheese, so it seemed like a pretty good alternative to the potato. And it was. You could of course use cold boiled potatoes - one medium potato per person. Because the cauliflower was warm, the sauce melted a bit, becoming a bit thinner than it would be otherwise.

Coliflor a la Huancaína: Cauliflower with Peruvian Spicy Cheese Sauce

(sauce adapted from Peru Delights)

Serves 6

Half a head of cauliflower, separated into florets, roasted and let cool to room temperature.

Salsa a la Huancaína

1/2 cup Aji Amarillo yellow hot pepper paste
1 cup evaporated milk (⬅︎ not sweetened condensed milk!)
4 soda crackers
1 cup queso fresco (or substitute 1 cup Ricotta Cheese and 30 grams Feta Cheese)

Garnish

3 boiled eggs, quartered
12 mild black olives
Parsley and/or lettuce (optional)

Scoop the cheese into the bowl of your food processor/blender (I used a stick blender for this, and it was fine). Break up the crackers over the cheese. Add the chile paste, and slowly pour in about half the milk. Start to process, adding more milk as necessary (you might not need it all, depending on your crackers and your cheese) until you get a smooth, yellow sauce thick enough to generously coat the cauliflower (or potato). It should not be as thick as bean dip, but able to flow a little when poured. If not using right away, cover tightly and refrigerate for up to two days.

Plate the cauliflower (you can place it on some lettuce, if you like, for presentation purposes) and spoon the sauce over each piece. Garnish with eggs, olives, parsley (if you like), and enjoy.

While this is traditionally an appetizer, we had it alongside some pork neck in an escabeche sauce, and a baked sweet potato.

May 05, 2017

Spicy Cauliflower & Ground Meat Skillet Dinner


This is quick, delicious, and oh-so-easy. We use habanero peppers, because we can get them more easily than we can jalapeños, but you can use any chile pepper you like, really. Kind of a cauliflower hash, as it were, but not so...hashy?

What it is, is very filling and satisfying. It's also low carb, if that interests you, or are just looking for something different from the cycle of potato-pasta-rice-bread that make the foundation of so many dinner calendars.

Spicy Cauliflower & Ground Meat Skillet Dinner
Adapted from Gluesticks & Gumdrops

Serves 2

1/2 large head of cauliflower, separated into small florets
250 grams ground beef or beef/pork mixture
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 habanero chile pepper, de-seeded
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or other powdered chile
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
60 grams cheddar cheese, grated
black pepper, to finish
cilantro, for garnish
Water, as needed

Do your mise en place first: separate the cauliflower, chop the onion, mince the garlic, grate the cheese, and de-seed the hot pepper (carefully). Wash and dry the coriander, and tear the leaves off of the thicker stems (you don't need the stem here).

Heat the canola oil in a large over medium-high temperature, and add the ground meat. If your meat is a bit fatty, you might not need the oil at all, or you might need to spoon a little off after it's fried. You want a bit of oil to thoroughly brown the meat, but not so much that it becomes greasy. If you are using lean meat, you shouldn't have to drain anything.

Break up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula as it fries, and let it get some nice golden brown colour before you add anything else. Don't just fry it until it loses the pink - you don't get good flavour from grey meat. When it is satisfactorily browned, add the onion and garlic, and stir through. When the onion turns translucent, add the chile pepper and the salt, cayenne, cumin seasonings. Stir and continue to fry until the onions are tender and a bit browned at the edges.

Add the cauliflower and stir it through, coating it with the spicy juices already in the skillet. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, and stir through again. Continue to cook and stir, adding splashes of water where necessary to keep the mixture loose an not burning, but not enough to make a gravy. You can also put a lid on and turn it to low for a few minutes to make sure the cauliflower gets cooked through to your satisfaction.

When the cauliflower is tender, it's time to finish. Scatter the grated cheddar evenly over the pan, and put a lid on for a few minutes - just long enough to melt the cheese. Use a wide spatula to lift sections from the pan onto the plate, trying to keep the cheese top-most if possible. Garnish with black pepper and cilantro. Devour.

You can of course use more cheese to make this an even more deluxe dish, but it's lovely the way it is, and perfect for someone looking for a lighter (but still satisfying) meal.

Not hot enough? You can always top it with the fiery hot sauce of your choice.

April 29, 2017

Gored Gored: Ethiopian Spiced Raw Beef


I am a big fan of Ethiopian cuisine. Its richly layered seasonings can be searingly spicy or pleasantly warm, but are always complex flavours borne of a long, unique culinary heritage.

I also like raw beef dishes, generally: carpaccio, tartar, kitfo (another Ethiopian dish, as it happens) are all wonderful, but the intense seasoning and the richness of the butter lift gored gored into a class of its own.

While I've eaten gored gored many times in restaurants, when I decided to make it myself, I found very few recipes to work from, and even fewer in English. I set about watching cooking videos on YouTube and scouring cookbooks, but there didn't really seem to be a consensus on any sort of master recipe, so I've constructed my own based on the bits of information that I've uncovered, as well as hands on (quite literally) analysis through consumption of versions prepared by professionals. The dish is not always served raw - sometimes it is lightly seared - but I prefer it raw.

This was a full on Ethiopian meal, with the other dishes being shiro wat (recipe still under development), okra stew with onions and tomatoes, and of course, injera - that wonderful Ethiopian flatbread that serves as a literal foundation upon which the other dishes are served, as well as the utensil with which to eat them. My injera really, really needs more practice, but the gored gored turned out beautifully.



Berbere spice mixtures can often be purchased pre-mixed, but if you can't find it, there's a link in the recipe below.

Gored Gored

Serves 4 - 6 (as part of a multi-dish meal)

225 gram piece of high quality raw beef, suitable for tartar
3-4 tablespoons warm Ethiopian spiced butter (Nit'r Q'ibe) (I used a modified version of this recipe from Saveur: I added a teaspoon of Berbere seasoning)
1 (extra) teaspoon Berbere seasoning (I used this recipe from Epicurious) You'll also need this to make the Awase seasoning
3-4 tablespoons Awase seasoning (I used this recipe from Markus Samuelsson)

Once you've gotten all of the seasonings sorted out, this dish is extremely simple. On your extremely clean cutting board, using a very sharp knife, cut the meat into small cubes. I cut mine very small, for the best spice-penetration, but it's normal to cut them a bit larger than this.

In a small serving bowl, add the Awase and the extra Berbere seasoning, and stir well to thoroughly coat all sides of each bit of meat. Add the warmed spiced butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring completely through, until the meat has a glossy sheen.

You can keep any leftover gored gored until the next day, covered well in the fridge, and either sauté it for the next day (if you must), or warm it very gently over a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, just until the butter loosens up and the meat approaches room temperature, and then swiftly plate to prevent it from cooking.

April 01, 2017

Freezer Burritos (and website news)


Well, it looks like my older website for Always In The Kitchen has finally expired and been taken offline. Don't worry, this blog is still active, and I still have all of the recipes, so I'll begin adding them to the comments sections of various blog posts that formerly just contained the links.

In the meantime, if you find any dead links where the recipe has not yet been added into the comments at the bottom, please let me know. I plan to add all of them, but it could take a while, and any of the older recipes that didn't have a link on the blog will be getting a whole new blog post, like this one.

Freezer Burritos

These are a delicious make-ahead worthy of taking up space in your freezer, ready to be a tasty packed lunch or emergency dinner. The inclusion of rice makes them technically "Mission-style" but, as discussed below, these are highly customizable.

Total prep and cooking time: 45 minutes more or less, depending on how fast you are at filling and rolling.

1 cup (200 grams) uncooked rice
1 (425 gram) can* black beans
1 (525 gram) can* pinto or kidney beans
1 cup (250 mL) frozen corn kernels, rinsed in warm water, drained
1 cup (250 mL) jarred salsa
10 (12 inch) flour tortillas (make sure they’re flexible - warm them if necessary to make rolling easier)
250 grams Pepper Jack cheese, shredded (or cheddar)
2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce, or hot sauce of your choice
1 tablespoon ground chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (use parsley or green onions if you're cilantro-phobic)
1-2 minced jalapeño peppers

*Please note that the can-sizes are approximate, based on what was available in my area at the time this recipe was being developed. If your cans are a bit smaller or a bit larger, it will be fine.

Cook the rice in your usual fashion, adding some Mexican or Southwest Seasoning or extra chile powder (1 teaspoon, approximately) into the water. Allow to cool somewhat while you prepare the rest. Drain and rinse beans and corn. Add salsa, and toss to mix. Transfer to a large bowl, and mix in the rice and cheese and seasonings (spices, cilantro, and peppers). Mix very thoroughly. Taste and see if you need to add more spices or hot sauce. Divide the mixture evenly among the tortillas, and roll up. Wrap individually in plastic wrap, place into a large freezer bag, and freeze. Reheat covered, but unwrapped, in the microwave on high for about 3 minutes. Liberally apply extra hot sauce, such as Cholula (ie. a thicker sauce, rather than a thin one like Tabasco or Louisiana).

I usually plan to have these for dinner on the day that I make a batch. Instead of microwaving them, I spritz them lightly with canola oil and bake them on a cookie sheet, in a 400 F oven, or until the edges are crispy and golden. You can also pan-fry them in a bit of canola or peanut oil, using tongs to rotate them for even browning.

For a non-vegetarian version, substitute one of the cans of beans with ½ pound cooked ground beef (season well, and drain off any fat) or ground chicken or turkey for a leaner meaty version. It’s slightly more work, but very tasty.

I usually get 10 (sometimes more) burritos, depending on how big the tortillas are, how much I've tinkered with the filling, and how much of the filling I've eaten while rolling up the burritos.

These are of course highly customizable - just keep an eye on the volume of filling you're making. I've been known to add minced bell pepper, Mexican pickled onions (chopped), leftover mole sauce, leftover roast chicken, (I divide the shredded roast chicken between each burrito rather than mixing it into the filling). Leftover pulled pork would of course also work very nicely. I'm thinking right now that black bean and roasted butternut squash would be an excellent plant-based variation.

March 04, 2017

Zhajiangmian: Beijing-style "Fried Sauce Noodles"


This is a delicious and simple dish (炸酱面, zhá jiàng miàn) that appears in a variety of styles within China, as well many iterations and similar dishes in other parts of Asia, from the almost black Jajangmyeon in Korea to the dry-style ramen dish Ja Ja Men in Japan.

It's easy to make if you have a well-stocked Asian pantry, and it's good enough to warrant picking up any ingredients you might not already have on hand. I like spicy food, so I've added a bit of heat that may or may not appear in restaurant versions (some will serve it either way, and some will simply bring you a jar of chile oil if you ask). The amount of umami in this is ridiculous.

The uncooked vegetable garnishes are an important part of this dish, bringing a fresh crunch and brightness to the dark heat and intensity of the sauce. The use of dark soy sauce instead of regular brings depth to the colour of the fried sauce.

This serves two generously.

Zhajiangmian

Lightly adapted from The Woks of Life

Serves 2

175 grams thick wheat-based dry noodles

250 grams ground pork
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon peanut oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

3 slices ginger, minced finely
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely grated
6 fresh mushrooms (shiitake, if available), finely chopped
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoon chile bean paste
2 tablespoons yellow soybean paste
1/2 tablespoon sambal oelek or 1/2 - 1 teaspoon chile oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 cup water

Garnish
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup julienned cucumbers
1/2 cup julienned scallions

In a mixing bowl, combine the ground pork, salt, cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon peanut oil, and white pepper, and stir well until completely integrated. Set aside.

Prepare the mushrooms, ginger, and garlic. In a small bowl, combine the Hoisin sauce, chile bean paste, yellow soybean paste, sambal (or chile oil), and dark soy sauce, and mix well.

Set a large pot of water on to boil for the noodles. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium or large skillet, and add the meat mixture. Fry and stir, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until the meat is well browned, and then add the chopped mushrooms. Continue to fry over medium high heat, adding a tablespoon of water if necessary to prevent sticking or burning. When the mushrooms have softened and shrunk a bit in size, add the sauce mixture and stir through until the pork is thoroughly coated. Add the water, stirring it in slowly, and simmer gently until the sauce is thick. While it simmers and the noodles are cooking, prepare the fresh vegetables - julienne the carrots, cucumber, and scallions.

When the noodles are cooked, drain them divide between two bowls. Spoon the meat mixture over the noodles, and garnish with the julienned fresh vegetables.

February 17, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Pasta


There are oh-so-many recipes for buffalo chicken pasta casseroles out there, and they're all surprisingly different. This is not a casserole, however, but a pasta sauce made from chicken and a buffalo-wing-style sauce, layered with blue cheese dressing and onto cooked long noodles, and topped with crumbled blue cheese. As you eat, the sauce and cheese combine to coat the pasta so that each bite is rich, delicious, and extremely satisfying.

If you are using the crumbled blue cheese, I recommend a mild style, such as Danish Blue. I used a German blue cheese called Kornblume, which is similar in flavour profile. I don't recommend gorgonzola or roquefort for this, as delicious as they are. The gorgonzola has the wrong texture and flavour, and the roquefort is a bit strong in this context. Maytag would work well for people who like their blue cheese a bit more intense.

Buffalo Chicken Pasta

Serves 2

150 grams dry linguine
1 tablespoon of butter

250 grams chicken breast, poached gently and shredded
125 mL Frank's Red Hot sauce (original style)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

125 mL blue cheese dressing
4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (optional)

Cook the linguine to your preferred doneness and drain. Toss with a tablespoon of butter, and divide between two pasta bowls. While the linguine cooks, combine the hot sauce, butter, and Worcestershire sauce in a small skillet, and stir to combine. Add the shredded chicken and stir through to ensure that all of the chicken is nicely coated in the hot sauce. Keep it warm over low heat with the lid off, to let the sauce thicken a bit.

Once the linguine is plated, spoon a little of the blue cheese dressing over each bowl, and then divide the chicken between the bowls (use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from any excess sauce). Spoon the rest of the blue cheese dressing over the chicken, and then add the crumbled blue cheese. Add a final drizzle of the hot sauce mixture over the top, and devour immediately.

To keep the buffalo wing theme going, we had this with a salad of finely sliced celery and carrot, topped with another bit of the blue cheese dressing. It made a refreshing contrast to the richness of the pasta, and is highly recommended.

Finally, I should note that if you make a bit more chicken than you need for this recipe, the leftovers make a fairly stunning grilled cheese. Yeah.

February 04, 2017

Rice Noodle Rolls: Chee Cheong Fun (and two pan-fried variations)


If you have access to a good Asian grocery store, you might never need to make the noodles from scratch although it's not at all difficult - merely time consuming. Just buy a nice fresh package and proceed below to the serving suggestions. But if, for example, you live in a small European city that doesn't seem to have really figured out yet that Asian cuisines are in fact plural, I hope that you will find this useful.

The time consuming aspect of this recipe lies in the fact that the noodles can only be cooked one at a time, and this makes 13-14 noodle sheets (at least, using the size of pans I have), each of which take 6 - 7 minutes to steam. If you have a better steaming rig than I do, one with stackable layers, you might be able to reduce the time by quite a bit.

Fortunately, you can make these a day or two ahead of when you want to serve them, and just keep them in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.

Chee Cheong Fun (Chinese Rice Noodle Rolls)

175 grams pyramid dumpling rice flour blend (or 150 grams rice flour plus 25 grams tapioca flour)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
200 mL cold water
300 mL hot water (from a recently boiled kettle)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon canola oil

Combine the flour(s) and cornstarch with the salt, and whisk in the cold water. When there are no more lumps, add the hot water, and whisk well, until thoroughly integrated. The batter will look way too thin and watery, but it’s fine. Add the oil and whisk again.

Let the batter rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Set up your steamer, and two or three trays that you can use to shape the noodle sheets. I use foil trays, the same kind used for baking or take-out containers. Make sure the trays can lie flat in the steamer, so your noodles are even. Lightly oil the trays, using a pastry brush or similar. Prepare a cold water bath - something large enough to put your steaming trays in, such as a baking dish or larger aluminum pan. Prepare a plate for the finished rolls, by brushing it very, very lightly with oil.

Place the first tray in the steamer (with steam already rising) and (after stirring the batter well) add a very thin layer of batter to the tray. Make sure the bottom of the tray is just barely covered. Cover, and steam for 6 - 7 minutes, or until it looks set. Remove tray from steamer and place it in the cold water bath. Place the next tray in the steamer, and repeat, being sure to stir the batter vigorously before ladling into the tray (it will separate, otherwise).

Let the tray with the cooked noodle rest in the water bath for a minute or two, and then lift it out and use a spatula to free the sides and slowly, with the pan tilted toward you, use the spatula to peel the noodle sheet down from the top, bit by bit, causing it to roll into a tight cylinder. Remove the noodle roll to your resting plate. Brush lightly with oil, especially if you will not be using the rolls until later.

Repeat until all of the batter is used up. How many noodle rolls you get depends very much on how big your trays are, and how thick your noodles. Once they are at room temperature, you can refrigerate them to use later, or even the next day.

As you can imagine, at about seven minutes per noodle, it takes a while to cook all of the batter. Using trays that measure approximately 16x10 centimetres, I got 13 or 14 rolls, and it took over an hour and a half to complete the steaming, because I could only steam one tray at a time. If you have a multi-tiered steaming rig and can handle more trays at a time, that will speed up the process a lot.

Pan fried rice noodle rolls with XO sauce

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil until very hot. While the oil is heating, slice the rice rolls into smaller pieces - from the 10 centimetre rolls I made, I cut the rolls into thirds, but you could also do halves or quarters. I cut them on an angle, to make them look pretty.

The amount of sauce here is for 7 noodle rolls (half a batch), so double it if you're going to fry up the whole amount.

Lay the noodle rolls pieces in the hot skillet, and let them sear lightly. Use a spatula or tongs to flip them over to get both sides. If you are frying all the noodles, maybe go through the searing stage in two batches, so to not overcrowd the pan and remove the finished ones to a holding plate while you fry the second batch.

It only takes a couple of minutes to sear the noodle rolls on each side. Use that time to slice some red chiles and green onion, and to make the finishing sauce:

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, pressed

When the noodle pieces have seared on both sides, add of the seared noodles back into the pan just before you add the sauce. Add the finishing sauce and the red chile slices, and gently stir and fry until the noodles have a glossy brown coat. Plate the noodles, and top with green onions and a nice spoonful of XO sauce. Serve immediately.

Pan fried rice noodle rolls with prawns and snow peas

To make a meal of it, simply add some prawns and snow peas. You can sear them either before or after searing the noodle rolls, making use of a holding plate, and then just add it all together into the skillet (or wok!) before you add the sauce.

Proceed as above. Serves 2.

March 28, 2016

Hot-Smoked Salmon & Fennel Kedgeree


A few weeks ago, we received a care package that contained two tins of hot-smoked wild fish from my home province of British Columbia: one BC sockeye salmon, and one BC albacore tuna. I don't have a huge repertoire of fish recipes - if you check out the seafood tag, you'll see mostly prawns, with only a few non-crustacean offerings. So, I've been thinking quite a bit about what to make with this unexpected bounty. The last time I had smoked tuna, I made Smoked Tuna Noodle Skillet Dinner, and the only salmon recipe I've posted is Salmon Corn Chowder.

I decided to use the salmon first. I did a little research online, asked friends on Facebook for suggestions, and even deliberated reworking previous recipes to use fish, but I wanted to make something new and interesting. Finally I remembered Kedgeree, a dish that had always caught my fancy for not only its interesting name but its entire multicultural history. I knew that most Kedgeree recipes call for smoked haddock or sometimes smoked mackerel, but I reasoned that the flavours should also be compatible with hot-smoked sockeye salmon.

Kedgeree is an Anglo-Indian dish, broadly considered to be descended from the South Asian class of rice-and-legume dishes called Khichri (also spelled Khichdi, kitchiri or khichuri, amongst other spellings), whose other culinary offspring might include Egyptian Kushari. Like its parent, Kedgeree has a lot of built in variability - wet or dry, whether you use ghee or oil, curry powder or separately blended spices, what kind of smoked, flaked fish, whether to include raisins. I went with a somewhat drier style, constructed more like a fried rice than a biryani, rice porridge or paella.

This qualifies as a skillet dinner if you have leftover rice to use.

Hot-Smoked Salmon & Fennel Kedgeree

Serves 3 - 4
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 20 minutes (if starting with cooked rice)

3 cups cooked basmati rice, fluffed and cooled, grains separated
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely sliced (fronds reserved)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 red chile, sliced
1 tablespoon Madras-type curry paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 170 gram tin of hot-smoked wild sockeye salmon
2 boiled eggs
Fresh cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of half a lemon

If you need to cook rice from scratch for this recipe, it takes about 1 cup / 200 grams raw basmati, cooked however you like to cook rice. For optimal length and separation of grains, soak the rice in the cooking water for an hour or so before cooking. Be sure to separate the cooled grains of rice with your fingers (or a fork) before adding to the skillet.

Prepare your vegetables. Open and drain the scant liquid from the tin of salmon. Peel the boiled eggs, and slice them lengthwise into quarters. Tear up the fronds of fennel and put them with the cilantro for garnish.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large, non-stick skillet. Once it has foamed out, add the chopped onion and sliced fennel, and stir and sauté until translucent and the onion is starting to brown at the edges.

Add the curry paste and cumin and coriander seed, and stir through. Add the sliced garlic, and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and stir until it has melted. Add the rice and half the red chile slices, and stir fry until the rice grains are all well coated with the buttery spices.

Add the salmon, breaking it into large and small chunks with your fingers. Stir gently through the skillet, so it doesn't break down entirely (unless you like it that way). When the salmon has been integrated and warmed through, serve in shallow bowls, garnishing with the remaining chile slices, the quartered eggs, the fennel fronds, and the cilantro leaves.
Finally, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over each bowl.

We served this with kalonji (nigella seed) studded roti, but this would also be excellent with a bowl of dal on the side (and would feed more people). If I had thought of it in time, I would have served a dollop of curried eggplant chutney, too.

Kedgeree can be eaten hot or cold, and it was reported that this one heated up very nicely in the microwave the next day.

June 08, 2015

Ayam Pedas Asam - Indonesian Sour Spicy Chicken (and International Bento: Indonesian)


Although there is a version of this dish called Ayam Goreng Asam, Sour Fried Chicken, where the chicken is first fried in oil before the sauce is added to the pan, this one has zero added fat. This suggests to me that I can pair it with a richer side dish without the overall meal feeling heavy, but in this case I was in a hurry to use up some cauliflower, so I just roasted that with some curry powder (and a bit of oil) instead.

The butchers and supermarkets here don't offer boneless chicken thigh, for some reason, and it turns out I'm too lazy to bone them out myself, so I've made this with breast. Thigh would be juicier, of course, so if you can get it, go for it.

While this dish is essentially just a meat-and-gravy dish, I think that a bit of Asian eggplant would go beautifully with the other flavours here, so I may try that next time.

Ayam Pedas Asam

Serves 4

500 grams boneless chicken thigh or breast
2 lemongrass stalks
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup tamarind concentrate (soaked, pulp squeezed & pureed, or prepared)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon palm sugar (or date sugar, or raw sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 star anise stars
3 Makrut lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
1-2 hot red chiles (such as Thai bird chiles), sliced or minced (or sambal oelek to taste)


Cut the chicken into large chunks, and set aside in a stain proof, non-reactive bowl.

Trim the ends of the lemongrass, and remove the outer tough layers. Slice one into thirds, and cut a vertical slit down to the core along their whole lengths,. Chop the other lemongrass up fairly finely, and put it in your blender or mortar.

If you are using a blender, add the garlic, salt, water, and sugar to the lemongrass, and blend until as smooth as possible. If you are using a mortar, grind the lemongrass with the salt. When mostly smooth, add the garlic, and continue until you have a smooth paste.

In a bowl, mix the lemongrass/garlic paste with the tamarind concentrate, coriander, turmeric, white pepper, chile(s), and anise stars. Scrape the mixture over the chicken, and stir well to thoroughly coat each piece. If you used the mortar method, add the water and sugar at this stage, too.

Let the chicken marinate for 20-30 minutes, or overnight, covered, in the fridge.

Place the chicken and marinade into a large skillet over medium heat, and add the lime leaves. Continue to heat until the liquid is quite bubbly, and then reduce the heat and let cook very gently, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.

If you still have a lot of liquid in the pan, remove the chicken pieces to a plate, and vigorously boil the sauce until it has thickened and reduced. Add the chicken pieces (and any accumulated liquid) back into the pan, turn the heat off, and gently stir around so that the thicker sauce now nicely coats each piece of chicken.

Serve over scented rice or basmati, with the vegetable side dish of your choice.


January 31, 2015

Cajun Chicken Fricassee


It's no secret that we love the food of New Orleans. Cajun and creole dishes are slowly but steadily seeping into our rotation, from the very first Jambalaya through Smoked Duck Étouffée, and of course further versions of Jambalaya, and all points in between, many of which I have yet to share with you.

The real trick is learning how to make a roux (some patience is required), and not balking at the amount of fat that goes into it. I do confess, though, that I often use less roux in my versions of recipes than is called for, to no discernible detriment to texture or flavour. Once you've got the roux down, the possibilities expand significantly. As an important public service announcement, I'm here to tell you that bacon fat makes a really delicious roux. So, if you like to save your bacon fat, this is a fantastic dish to squander it on.

This is a luxurious tasting dish, and seems more closely related to Étouffée than to its French cousin, also called Fricassee, a creamy, somewhat more subtle dish. Garnish with sliced green onions (not shown here) for maximum traditional bonus points.

Cajun Chicken Fricassee
Adapted from "Cajun — Creole Cooking" by Terry Thompson-Anderson

Serves 4 (with gravy leftover for another meal)

8 pieces of chicken (bone in, skin on, legs/thighs are optimal)
seasoned with salt, black pepper, and cayenne
1/2 cup cleaned bacon fat* or lard
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 medium yellow onions, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced or diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaf (less, if powdered)
OR 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 cups hot chicken broth or stock
4 green onions, sliced (garnish)

*If you keep salvaged bacon fat in a jar in the fridge, it usually ends up with stria of little burned flecks and lumps. Once you have a full jar of fat, it's easy to warm up it up until it becomes liquid again, and the impurities settle to the bottom. Then you can carefully pour off what you need, leaving the nasty bits behind. (Pour any extra into a clean jar to store in the fridge until needed.)

Once you start cooking, you will have no time to prep. Therefore, prepare and measure out everything that you need in advance, including heating your stock. This is your only warning.

Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Open a window, if possible, so that the smell of frying chicken does not haunt you for days.

In a large dutch oven, heat the fat until it is shimmering (but not smoking), and fry the chicken briefly until golden on both sides (but not cooked through). I work in batches, browning the thighs first, then the drumsticks, removing the pieces to a paper towel-lined plate as they are done.

When all the chicken has been browned, turn the heat down to medium-low and sprinkle the flour over the hot fat, and get right in there with a whisk to smooth it into a roux. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir, pretty much continuously, scraping the entire bottom surface of the pan to prevent catching and scorching, for about 25 minutes, or until the roux becomes caramel-coloured. If the roux is really catching on the bottom of the pan, turn the heat down further, or remove it from the heat altogether (for a few minutes). Using bacon fat instead of lard gives you a jump start on colour, but don't trim the time, as it is necessary to cook the flour through properly and develop the flavour.

Once the roux is caramel-coloured, add the onions, garlic, and celery, and cook and stir for about four minutes, or until the vegetables are wilted and the onions have turned translucent. The roux will thicken rather a lot as this happens, so constant stirring is necessary. Add the remaining dry seasonings - bay leaves, cayenne, black pepper, thyme - and stir them through.

Add the stock, slowly, stirring constantly, until it is all integrated, and the gravy is bubbling nicely. Return the chicken to the pot, stir through, and once the dish is gently bubbling, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and let cook for an hour. If you are anxious, you can peek at it now and then, and give it a little stir. No biggie.

In the meantime, while the fricassee cooks, you have a chance to clean up a little, and make any side dishes. Rice goes wonderfully, but so do noodles, mashed potatoes, biscuits, or dumplings. Your choice. Shown here is Cajun Spinach Rice (adapted from the same book), and Ukrainian pickled tomatoes (because they are delicious).

When the hour is up, stir the dish through (there may be some chicken fat settling out on the surface, just stir it back in), and garnish with sliced green onion.

This recipe makes a lot of gravy, so after dinner I set aside the extra in a freezer container, ready to become a fast weeknight dinner by adding boneless chicken breast, and serving over biscuits, with some sort of extra vegetable on the side.

January 11, 2015

My Mom's Chinese Beef & Greens


My mother used to make a version of this quite regularly, served over brown rice as was the custom of our household. I don't know where she got the original recipe, or what modifications she might have made to it. As both her knowledge of and exposure to Asian cooking of any kind was severely limited during the time we kids were growing up, and the availability of such ingredients in our small town was quite restricted, her version did not contain either sambal, fermented black beans, or even fresh ginger, and it was thickened with flour rather than cornstarch or tapioca flour (my version still is). It still tasted wonderful, and was a family favourite.

As I began to make the dish for myself as an adult, I gradually added the black beans, sesame oil, and exchanged some of the ground ginger for freshly grated ginger root. Plain button mushrooms were switched for shiitake, straw, or shimeji/beech mushrooms (although I'll still use buttons if that's what is available to me).

Normally there's about twice the amount of bok choi that you can see in the picture - it turns out that I had less on hand than I realized when I went to make the dish. It was still excellent, but had slightly less greens than usual. The baby corn is the most recent addition to recipe, and it's an absolute keeper. This recipe continues to be requested on a regular basis in our household.

Mom’s Chinese Beef & Greens

Serves 4-6 (over rice)

500 grams extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, halved and sliced, pole-to-pole
3-5 cloves of garlic, sliced or pressed
200 grams mushrooms, sliced or quartered if necessary
1 large head of bok choi, washed & sliced or 4 heads of mini bok choi
1-2 carrots, peeled & sliced into coins
200 grams fresh baby corn, sliced once each horizontally and vertically (optional)
1 thumbs-length of fresh gingerroot, sliced, minced, or grated
1/2 teaspoon dried, ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce (preferably a less sodium type)
1 tablespoon black bean sauce or Chinese fermented black beans, rinsed and mashed
1 teaspoon sambal oelek or other chile paste or chile oil
1 cup stock – beef, chicken, bouillon cube – whatever you’ve got
1 large tablespoon of flour
1/2 cup of cold water
1/2 teaspoon toasted pure sesame oil

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or cast-iron pan, over high heat, brown the beef until any liquid has boiled off and the meat is frying gently. If you are not using extra lean ground beef, you may wish to drain any excess fat.

Add the chopped onions, garlic, ginger root, baby corn, and carrots, and stir well until the onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms, white pepper, ground ginger, black beans (or black bean sauce) sambal oelek and soy sauce. Stir well. Add a smidge of water if it’s starting to stick on the bottom, and/or lower the heat a little.

Let the mixture fry a little until the mushrooms start to get tender, and then add the stock or broth. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan so that nothing burns on. Bring to a gentle boil. Mix the cold water and flour together with a whisk, or shake together in a plastic lidded container until smooth. Pour into the meat mixture, stirring constantly, and bring back to a boil to thicken the gravy. If it gets too thick, you may need to add a little more water or stock. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Slice the bok choi is sliced into large, bite-sized pieces (they will shrink a bit as they cook). Pile the bok choi on top of the meat mixture – don’t stir it in – and cover with a lid. Cook over medium-low heat for about five minutes, or until the greens wilt and decrease in volume. Then, stir carefully into the beef mixture underneath. Add sesame oil and stir through.

Taste to adjust seasoning, then serve over rice. My family liked to add a final drizzle of soy sauce at the table.

If you have leftovers, they can easily be reheated in the microwave or the stovetop, but my mother's usual approach was to combine the rice and beef mixture thoroughly, and then reheat it in the oven, covered, in a casserole dish (with maybe a tiny sprinkle of extra water to keep it from drying out. We liked it just as much on the second day as the first, even though we referred to it as "horse mash" because my sister thought the combined dish looked much like the cooked porridge that was fed to horses recovering from strangles (equine distemper), in the stables where she worked.

October 31, 2014

Cornmeal Dumplings


Chili and cornbread is a really classic combination. Cornbread, of course, can take many different shapes and forms, not to mention bonus flavours and the eternal debate between sweet/not-sweet that rages through the Americas. My favourite, growing up, was Southern Spoon Bread, a cornbread leavened with beaten egg whites into a lusciously light accompaniment to almost any meal. But I like all kinds of breads made from corn.

Stew Dumplings are the fastest form of bread that I know. They're quicker to whip up than cornbread, biscuits, or scones. The dough requires no resting period like tortillas or arepas, and because they cook on the stovetop, right on top of whatever savoury concoction you're already simmering, they take very little time to cook. No oven pre-heating, no extra pan(s) to grease. I like Stew Dumplings for beef or chicken stew, but chili feels like it needs a little extra something. So, after looking at my cornbread recipe, I decided to simply swap out some of the all-purpose flour with yellow cornmeal in my classic Stew Dumplings recipe. It worked wonderfully, and the next time I do this I may also add some chile flakes, to make them prettier.

While I used these on top of a simple ground beef and bean chili, I think you could also use them on a chicken stew with great success, especially a green chile chicken stew.

Cornmeal Dumplings

Makes 8 dumplings
(serves 4)
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 20 minutes

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal (not superfine)
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch chile flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons chicken fat or canola oil
1/2 cup 1% milk

In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Add the chicken fat (or canola oil), and stir it through – it will give the flour a lumpy appearance, which is fine – keep stirring until the lumps are very small. Add the chile flakes, if using, and stir through.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and pour the milk in all at once. Stir (with a fork) very rapidly and thoroughly, until all of the dry flour is brought into a stiff, sticky, batter. Use a tablespoon to drop eight (8) dollops of batter evenly over the surface of a bubbling, hot stew. Make sure there is sufficient liquid in the stew – the dumplings should just have their “feet” wet, but mostly be sitting on top of solid lumps. If there is too much liquid, the dumplings will sink a bit. They'll still taste good, but will expand downward instead of upward, and be a bit denser and wetter.

Cover the pot tightly, set the burner temperature to low (so the chilli doesn’t burn) and let the dumplings cook for 15 minutes – no peeking! Do not lift the lid until the dumplings are cooked, or they will become dense and soggy. Serve two dumplings per person.

If you're one of those really organized pantry people, you might want to jar-or-bag up premixed dry ingredients, since you only then need to add a dollop of fat and the milk (you could also use milk powder in a mix, for truly hardcore, and just add water and oil).

For classic Stew Dumplings, replace the cornmeal with more all-purpose flour, and add 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley.

August 28, 2014

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches with Chile-Basil Butter


These darling little sandwiches were inspired by Madhur Jaffrey's Indian-accented tea sandwiches, which call for chile-mint butter, and don't contain cucumber. I was tempted to add a hint of ground coriander and cumin to the butter mixture, just to elevate the sense of Indian flavours, and I might do that next time. Hers also had a touch of lemon juice in the butter mixture, which I might try as well, as I think the added brightness will work nicely.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches with Chile-Basil Butter

Makes 8 Tea-sized Sandwiches

4 larges slices of thinly sliced soft white bakery bread
2-3 inches finely sliced cucumber
3 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons minced basil
1 minced green chile
Kosher salt
Black pepper to taste

Mix the butter, basil, green chile, and a pinch of salt (along with any bonus seasonings you'd like to add) until thoroughly combined. Spread the butter mixture thickly on one side of each piece of bread.

On two of the slices of buttered bread, layer as many pieces of cucumber, overlapping, as you can fit onto the bread. Don't worry about peeling the cucumber (unless it has an inedible peel), the dark green adds a nice bit of contrast. Top the cucumber'd bread slices with the other buttered slices of bread, to make two large sandwiches.

Trim the crusts, using a very sharp knife and a single downward slicing motion for each side, to prevent the sandwiches from trying to fall apart. Slice each sandwich into quarters, in whichever way you see fit, or use a sandwich punch or cookie cutters if you want fancy shapes.

Serve right away, so that the bread doesn't have a chance to dry out. If necessary, cover tightly with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

July 27, 2014

Caribbean Curried Chicken Skillet Dinner


It's been a while since I made a rice-based skillet dinner, so I thought it was time. You can easily adapt this recipe to use boneless chicken thighs, if you prefer, simply by shortening the cooking time and finishing the cooking solely on the stovetop. However, you won't get quite as pretty an effect, and of course, you won't get the crispy, delicious chicken skin.

Caribbean Curried Chicken Skillet Dinner

Serves 4

8 bone-in chicken pieces
1 tablespoon unbleached flour
2 — 3 tablespoons Jamaican-style curry powder*
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup parboiled rice
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/3 cups water
3 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
2 large carrots, shredded
30 grams sultana or golden raisins
1/4 cup finely sliced green onions
1 — 2 Scotch Bonnet Chili peppers, minced

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine the flour, curry powder (and salt, if you are using an unsalted curry powder) in a shallow bowl, and toss the chicken pieces to lightly coat.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the peanut oil and add the chicken pieces, skin side down, working in batches if you need to. Sear the chicken until darkly golden brown on the skin side, about six to eight minutes, and then flip over to brown the other side, too (for about five minutes). Set the chicken aside on a clean plate.

While the chicken is browning, combine the coconut milk, water, and the remaining curry powder/flour mixture, whisking until smooth, and have it standing ready.

When all of the chicken is out of the pan, drain most of the fat (and any loose browned curry powder) leaving only a thin layer of oil in the pan. Add the shredded carrots, green onions, scotch bonnets, and raisins. Stir and fry for a minute or so, before adding the rice and toasted coconut. Stir around until the rice is thoroughly coated, scraping the bottom of the skillet with your spoon or spatula so that everything is evenly integrated.

Add the coconut milk mixture to the rice and stir well, to ensure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of your skillet.

Return the chicken to the pan, placing each piece skin-side up in a single layer so that the skin is not submerged in the liquid. Place skillet uncovered in the hot oven, on a middle shelf for 30 minutes. (check at 20 minutes to see if more liquid is needed).

Remove chicken pieces from the skillet onto serving plates, and spoon up the rice with a big serving spoon. The rice will be creamy-textured rather than pilaf style. If I have leftovers, I take the meat off the bones before cooling and refrigerating, to make re-heating in a skillet or microwave easier.


This dish can be pretty fiery and intense, so a fresh green salad will help provide a cooling counterpoint.

*Use a Jamaican-style curry powder if possible. Also, check to see if your curry powder contains salt; if not, you may want to add a half-teaspoon of kosher salt (or coarse sea salt).


May 24, 2014

Almond Chile Chicken


I almost called this "Not-Quite Kung Pao Chicken" as the primary difference is the use of almond slivers instead of crushed or whole peanuts. However, it turned out much too tasty to burden with a name that suggested it was not living up to its full potential. Another significant difference is the absence of Szechuan pepper, although it would be a great addition. This recipe makes no claim to authenticity, but it is delicious. With three sources of chile, it's also very hot.

It's helpful to allow the chicken to marinate for a little while, at the very least while you prepare the peppers and toast the almonds, but ideally at least for half an hour. You can easily add in another vegetable for an all-in-one dish green bell pepper, for example, or diced baby corn, or even finely chopped celery (to stay true to its Kung Pao roots), but don't crowd the chicken with a lot of other things. Maybe serve a simply steamed gai lan with a shot of oyster sauce, or sautéed baby bok choi with a nice dressing on the side. Serve the chicken over rice.

Almond Chile Chicken

4 Servings

400 grams boneless chicken (breast or thigh)
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
handful of dried red chile pods
3 — 4 fresh red chiles (long, preferably)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peanut oil

Marinade and cooking sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese mushroom sauce (or oyster sauce)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry (or Chinese wine)
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (or black vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Garnish
green onion, thinly sliced
cilantro, stems removed

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl, and stir until thoroughly combined. Cut the chicken into bit-sized pieces, and add it to the marinade, stirring well until the chicken is completely coated in sauce. Cover and let rest in the fridge for a few hours (if possible).

Thinly slice the red onion and mince the garlic, and set aside. Toast the almonds gently in a dry skillet until they are fragrant and golden brown, and set aside. Remove and discard the seeds from the fresh chiles and julienne the pods into nice, long matchsticks. Prepare the dry chile pods by removing the stem end, shaking out excess seeds, and breaking longer pods in half (or thirds).

Prepare any additional vegetables (either for this dish, or for a separate side), and slice the green onion and roughly chop the cilantro for your garnishes.

Have a half-cup or so of room temperature (or hot) water standing by once you're ready to fry.

Heat a large nonstick skillet (or wok, if you're set up for it) over high heat, and add the peanut oil. Using a slotted spoon or spider-tool, remove the chicken from the marinade (reserving the marinade to add later). Add the chicken in a couple of batches to the hot peanut oil, and let the pieces sear for a moment before giving it a quick stir. Add the red onion and stir through, and continue to sauté for another minute. Add the fresh chiles and the dry chile pods, and stir again. If you're adding diced baby corn, now is the time to add it, otherwise add any quicker-cooking items along with the marinade in a couple of minutes.

If the chicken starts to stick, or the marinade starts to burn, add a tablespoon of your stand-by water to loosen it up. Don't add too much water, or you'll be steaming your dish instead of frying it. You can get around this by simply using more peanut oil than indicated, but that makes for a much richer dish. Continue to sauté for another minute or so, and then add the reserved marinade along with another splash (ahem, tablespoon) of water, and stir rapidly to allow the sauce to cook through thoroughly and coat the chicken once more. Give it another couple of minutes sauté time, and add the almonds. Stir though, adding another tablespoon of water if it seems too dry, although you probably won't need to. Plate immediately, and garnish with the green onion and cilantro.

April 13, 2014

Duck Noodles


Duck Noodles are delicious. But you can already tell that, just from the name: Duck Noodles.

This is partly a recipe and partly a serving suggestion. You probably already know how to stir fry some vegetables and noodles, and your selection of both might vary from mine (although I must put in a vote for both baby corn - fresh, if you can get it - and snow peas, which go so beautifully with the duck). But, at the end of the day, make the noodles how you like best, and top them with this tasty, tasty duck.

Pan Seared Duck Breast for Duck Noodles

March 09, 2014

Vietnamese-inspired Lemongrass Pork Meatballs


What do you do when you have a surplus of lemongrass? Well, you could make meatballs, of course.

Living in this small city in Germany, access to Asian cuisines is rather limited, and often quite different from my previous experience of those cuisines in Vancouver. There are some tasty options, but there are also some notable absences, and much less variety than I've been accustomed to. I've taken on the challenge of making some of the things that I miss from Vancouver, and my list grows bigger every day.

That being said, I don't believe this to be any kind of authentic Vietnamese dish; rather, it is me playing with the flavours of Vietnamese cuisine and having fun while I do it. If you are looking for the springy sort of meatballs that one gets in Phó, you'll need to look elsewhere, as these are more in the Italian meatball school of texture (if not flavour). But if you want a tasty Vietnamese-inspired meatball treat - lordy, check these out! Bursting with flavour.

As I slowly build up my pantry, each new ingredient opens another door to new items to cook. My latest ingredient is fish sauce - essential for Vietnamese and Thai cooking. Because my fridge is a tiny German bar-sized fridge, shelf space for bottles is at an absolute premium, so I looked for the smallest bottle of fish sauce that I could find. That turned out to be a brand that also has red chiles in it. At first I balked - I tend to stick to the more neutral versions of basic ingredients, especially for cuisines outside my own - but as I turned it over in my head, I realized that I never use fish sauce without also adding chiles, so it was probably going to be okay. And it was. There's something about the chiles that actually takes the edge of the odour of the fish sauce, and that's kind of a relief, actually. It means that I get that all-important flavour that is so necessary in a lot of the dishes, without flinching my way through the adding of it.

Vietnamese-inspired Lemongrass Pork Meatballs