Showing posts with label Make It Forever!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Make It Forever!. Show all posts

June 10, 2018

Coconut Lime Chicken & Rice Skillet

I developed this recipe because I had a lot of jalapeños to use up, and because I love skillet dinners. It's not quite Caribbean, not quite Mexican, and not quite South East Asian, but it's extremely tasty and a very satisfying meal that takes just over an hour to get on the table - half of that time unattended.

We served this with a salsa fresca (pico de gallo) on the side, but any nice fresh salad would also do the trick. I'm pleased to report that the leftovers, if you're that lucky, also make an excellent filling for wraps - with or without the rice.

Coconut Lime Chicken & Rice Skillet

Serves 3-4

6-8 bone-in chicken parts, with skin
2 tablespoons coarse salt
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons
200 grams (1 cup, 7.05 oz) uncooked parboiled rice
165 mL (2/3 cup, 5.5 oz) canned coconut milk
4 large jalapeños
1 small onion
2-3 tablespoons shredded fine unsweetened coconut
2 cloves garlic
375 mL (1 3/4 cup, 12.5 oz) boiling water
1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed, chopped roughly (a generous handful)

Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.

Remove any excess skin and/or fat from the chicken with a sharp knife. Combine the lime zest with the coarse salt in order to make a seasoned rub. Massage the seasoned salt into the chicken on all sides, discarding the excess salt that falls off in the process. The tops of the chicken pieces should have a sparse but even coating of salt.

In a large (30cm/12") skillet or braising dish, lay the chicken pieces in a single layer, skin-side up. Place the dish in the oven and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, during which time you can prepare the other ingredients.

Finely dice the onion, and mince or press the garlic. De-seed the jalapeños, and finely dice one of them. Cut the remaining three jalapeños into rings and set aside until the final stages. Squeeze the juice from the lime. Rinse the rice under cool water until it runs clear.

After the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes, remove it from the oven, and place the skillet on a moderately hot burner. Use tongs or a spatula to transfer the chicken pieces to a clean plate. Into the juices left behind in the emptied skillet, add the onion, garlic, and finely diced jalapeño. Sauté for about two minutes, until the onion softens and turns translucent. Add the rice, and stir it around to coat the grains in the onion and chicken fat mixture. Turn the burner off. Add the lime juice and stir through. Add the coconut and the coconut milk and stir through. Add the boiling water (carefully), and stir though, using a spatula to smooth the rice into an even layer beneath the liquid.

Use tongs or a spatula to transfer the chicken pieces back to the skillet, arranging the pieces in a single layer on top of the rice. The tops of the chicken pieces should not be covered by the cooking liquid, but the sides may be a little until the rice starts absorbing the liquid.

Place the full pan back in the oven, uncovered, on the middle or upper middle rack, and bake for another 30 minutes. You may wish to check it after 20-25 minutes, to make sure it's not drying out, but unless your oven is hot, it should be fine.

Remove the skillet from the oven, and scatter sliced jalapeños and cilantro over top if you're serving the whole dish at the table.

Distribute the chicken to the individual diner's plates, and stir the jalapeños and cilantro through the rice. before serving the rice.

If you would like to make this dish entirely stovetop, that's also manageable, but requires a bit more hands-on labour (and the skin won't be crispy): Sear the seasoned chicken breast on both sides, cooking for a total of about 10 minutes, and set aside. Proceed as above, but reduce the boiling water to 295 mL (10 oz) and instead of placing the assembled dish in the oven, bring the liquid to a gentle simmer on the stovetop and turn the burner to its lowest setting. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and move the skillet to a cool burner or heatproof pad and let sit undisturbed without ever lifting its lid for another 15 minutes. Serve as above, adding the sliced pepper rings and the cilantro and stirring it through the rice.

December 10, 2017

Potato Stroganoff Skillet Dinner

Stroganoff doesn't have to be served with noodles! This quick weeknight-friendly recipe uses quartered nugget potatoes for maximum speed and a rustic, chunky, satisfying dinner. If you'd rather slice your potatoes into thin rounds to mimic the packaged version, go for it, but it will take a little longer in prep time.

This recipe was developed as a hybrid between my Hamburger Stroganoff Skillet Dinner and my Bauerntopf mit Hackfleisch (Farmer's Skillet Dinner), and it is a saucy, creamy delight. You might enjoy a bit of crusty bread on the side to mop up the last of the sauce. We served this with steamed broccoli for a hearty meal. Leftovers, should you be so lucky, heat up really well for lunch (or dinner again).

Potato Stroganoff Skillet Dinner

Serves 4

500 grams ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 medium yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
200 grams mushrooms
Pinch thyme
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
2 cups beef broth (or stock cube & water)
600 grams nugget potatoes
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
200 grams schmand (or smetana, or thick sour cream)

Peel and slice the onion into thin half-moon slices. Brush clean and slice the mushrooms. Wash and quarter the potatoes (if your potatoes are a bit bigger, cut them into wedges). Prepare a slurry by shaking together the cold water and flour in a lidded container. Peel the garlic.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and then fry the ground meat until the water has evaporated and it begins to brown nicely (remember: no-longer-pink doesn't equal browning; take the extra minute or two). Add the sliced onion and stir through, and then add the sliced mushrooms and stir them through. Continue to stir and fry for another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and the onion is tender. Add a tablespoon of water to keep it from sticking, if needed. Add the white pepper and celery salt, and stir through.

Add the potatoes to the skillet and stir them through so they get coated in the meaty flavours. Next, gently stir in the beef broth. Crush (or mince) the garlic and stir it in. Let the heat come up to a simmer, and add the slurry (give it a final shake just before adding). Stir the slurry through and return to a simmer, and then turn the heat to low and put a lid on the skillet.

Let the skillet simmer gently, covered, on low for ten minutes, and then stir and let simmer (still covered) another ten minutes, or until the potato quarters are fork-tender. You can stir periodically if you're worried about the potatoes sticking to the pot, but don't lift the lid too often or the potatoes will take longer to cook. Stir in the schmand (or heavy sour cream) until smooth, and let the dish come up to a simmer one final time, and then it's ready to serve.

December 03, 2017

Çılbır: Turkish Poached Eggs in Yoghurt with Spiced Butter

I love a good breakfast, and Turkish culture really knows how to do it up as a feast. Menamen (scrambled eggs in pepper sauce) might be the best known (internationally) egg-based breakfast dish from Turkey, but by golly cilbir should be on everyone's list, too. Cilbir (anglicized somewhat from Çılbır) is pronounced, roughly, as CHILL-ber (like Wilbur, but, you know, chill).

What is it? Well, the beauty-base-zero version is poached eggs in garlicky yoghurt, drizzled with browned butter infused with chile flakes. There are a LOT of variations to be had, though - most of which appear to be placing the basic version on top of an additional element - kıyma, for example (fried seasoned ground meat), or sautéed spinach (like a Turkish version of eggs Florentine). This versatility explains why cilbir is eaten not only for breakfast, but for any other meal of the day.

Between the above description and the pictures, you probably don't need a recipe, but I'm going to give you one anyway:

Çılbır: Turkish Poached Eggs in Yoghurt

Serves 2

Yoghurt base

300 grams plain thick yoghurt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or dill, or mint)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt

2 - 4 Poached eggs

I'm going to assume you know how to poach eggs, and have a preferred method. If not, go ahead and google it, or even just fry your eggs sunny side up, or soft boil them (I won't tell)

Spiced Butter

2 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 teaspoon - 2 teaspoons Turkish pepper flakes (eg. Aleppo) or paprika, adjusting for the level of heat as desired


Prepare the yoghurt base first, because you want it more room-temperature than fridge-cold. I take the yoghurt out of the fridge as soon as I get up, before I shower or make coffee, to let it warm up a bit. When you're ready to get cooking, combine the yoghurt base ingredients in a small bowl, and beat until everything is well integrated. Set aside for the flavours to mingle while you prepare the rest.

Warm a couple of bowls by filling them with hot water and letting them stand. You probably don't need to do this in the summer.

Prepare the spiced butter next. Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. If you are using unsalted butter, add a tiny pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the butter boil and seethe until the water evaporates and the milk solids start to brown (alternatively, you can use ghee). Remove the butter from the heat, and add the chile flakes. I was using extra-hot oiled Pul Biber (Turkish chile flakes), so I didn't add a lot, but with a milder chile you can add quite a bit more (which does look very pretty). Let the butter and chile flakes infuse together while you prepare the eggs.

Prepare the eggs as you like - I poached mine in a skillet of bubbling water for 5 minutes, but your mileage may vary.

Just before the eggs are ready, take your warmed bowls (drained and dried) and add a generous spoonful of yoghurt base into the bottom of each. Use the spoon to swirl it out to cover the bottom of the bowl. When the eggs are ready, use a skimmer to lift them from the water, and place them in the bowls. Use a teaspoon to drizzle the desired amount of spiced butter over and around the egg(s). Serve at once with warm flatbread, and maybe some nice sliced vegetables and hummus.

July 29, 2017

Loco Moco

Loco Moco is Hawaiian comfort food suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and is such a hometown favourite that it appears everywhere from takeaway windows, to diners, to fine dining restaurants.

Four essential ingredients comprise the classic Loco Moco: white rice, ground meat patty, fried egg, and brown gravy. The number of patties and eggs is variable, but even the petite offering shown here, of a single patty and a single egg, makes for quite a substantial meal.

There are other variations, of course. Fried rice instead of rice, being one. The meat patty could be replace with fried spam, and there may or may not be mushrooms in the gravy. Some places ask if you want sautéed onions or not, but in this version they're already right in the gravy. Loco Moco often appears as an option on Hawaii's famous Plate Lunch, which pretty much guarantees a scoop of macaroni salad on the side. In Japan, where Loco Moco has migrated quite happily, it is often served with Tonkatsu sauce instead of brown gravy, which gives it an altogether different effect.

Serving the egg as the topmost layer is picture pretty, but most places drench the egg with extra gravy - sometimes so much so that the takeaway container threatens to overflow. It is big food. Generous food. Comfort food.

So here's how you make it:

Loco Moco

Serves 2-4

3-4 cups hot cooked long grain white rice
4 hamburger patties in brown gravy (or Salisbury Steaks with a little soy sauce spiking the gravy)
4 fried eggs

Divide the rice between the dishes (pasta bowls work really well for this). Top the rice with one or two hamburger patties and a big spoonful of gravy. Top the patties with the fried eggs, and ladle extra gravy over it all. Serve with soy sauce and/or hot sauce on the side.

This is also a great way to use up extra Salisbury steaks, if you have some in the fridge, but if you want to make the patties up from scratch, it can still be done up pretty quickly:

500 grams lean ground beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 shake of Tabasco pepper sauce
a bit of all-purpose flour to dust the patties
1 teaspoon butter or oil for frying

For the gravy:
1 medium onion, sliced pole-to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 teaspoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
3 cups beef broth (or stock from a prepared base, such as Better than Bouillon) - preferably low sodium
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (shaken together with 125 mL (1/2 cup) cold water to make a slurry)

Put the rice on to cook first. While it cooks:

Mix together the meat and seasonings with a fork or your impeccably clean hands, and shape into four flat patties. Sprinkle the patties with flour on each side, and shake of any excess. Fry them in a large, hot skillet (in which you have melted the butter or heated the oil) over medium heat until well-browned on each side. Don't worry about cooking them through, they will finish cooking in the gravy.

Once the patties have been nicely browned, remove them to a plate while you make the gravy. To the emptied pan, add the onions and garlic, and stir them through, scraping up the fond on the bottom of the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce, and stir and cook until the onions turn translucent and start to get tender. If the pan is too dry, lower the heat a bit and add a tablespoon of water or so at a time until there's no danger of scorching.

Add the beef broth and stir through, being sure to scrape up the flavourful bits on the bottom of the pan. Make a slurry of the flour with the cold water to make a smooth, thick liquid, and add it to the skillet, stirring. Stir it all through until it is thoroughly integrated with the onions and stock. It will start to thicken the gravy immediately, but it will take about 20 minutes of cooking for the flour to cook through and lose its paste-like raw taste, so don't be impatient if it doesn't taste great right away. Return the patties to the sauce, lower the heat to it's lowest setting, and continue to stir periodically, until the gravy has a delicious meaty flavour. You can cover the pan if you like, but I don't usually find it necessary. If it gets too thick, add a little water to thin it to your preferred gravy consistency.

If your patties didn't brown very much, your gravy might be pale in colour. It should still taste good, though, but you can get a nicer colour by adding a few drops of dark soy sauce (not regular). It's on point for the dish flavour-wise, and it's a near miraculous gravy-browner.

When the rice is cooked and the patties and gravy are ready, fire up another skillet and fry up some eggs. Sunny side up is traditional, but over easy (or over hard) is fine if that's how you roll.

Layer the ingredients quickly and dive in.

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 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.


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

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 25, 2017

Black Beans & Rice with Sausage

This recipe takes inspiration from those dry packet mixes for black beans and rice, but using fresh ingredients and a lot less salt. It's a fairly quick meal to make, labour-wise (about 45 minutes, most of which is unattended cook time), and while there's a bit of chopping involved, there's not a lot of clean up: cutting board, knife, skillet, spatula, bowls, forks. It's easy, it's delicious, and it reheats well for lunch the next day.

If you want a more Cajun-y version, replace the seasonings listed below with a Cajun spice blend.

Vegetarians/Vegans could either replace the sausage with a similarly styled plant-based sausage, smoked tofu, or simply increase the amount of black beans.

Black Beans & Rice with Sausage

Serves 4

140 grams Cabanossi sausage (or Kolbassa)
2 medium stalks celery
1 medium onion
1 medium red or green bell pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable base (I use reduced sodium)
2 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup parboiled rice
2 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste!)
2 dash Tabasco pepper sauce
1 3/4 cups water, from a recently boiled kettle
sliced green onions for garnish (optional)

Prepare the sausage by slicing it once lengthwise and then slice cross-wise into half-coin pieces. Prepare the vegetables by peeling or trimming as needed and dicing into thumbnail-sized chunks. I like to string my celery, if it's particularly tough. Mix the seasoning spices in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet, sear the sausage slices, then push to the sides of the skillet and add the diced onion, garlic in the olive oil until it starts to turn translucent. Add the diced pepper, beans and spices, and stir through gently. Let cook, stirring, for about a minute, and then add the Tabasco sauce, rice, and 1 & 3/4 cups boiling water. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer, stirring, then immediately cover. Turn down the heat to a bare simmer and leave undisturbed (no peeking!) for 25 minutes. When it is done, stir through gently. Sprinkle with sliced green onions and serve.

January 07, 2017

Turkey Congee

Congee (also called jook in Cantonese, amongst many other names worldwide) is a rice porridge popular throughout Asia, and there are many different ways to have it. At its most basic, it is a blank canvas for your favourite flavours, whether you need it to be soothing and restorative, or something a little more lively. It is almost infinitely customizable to what you already might have available in your kitchen. It can be meat-based, or vegetarian, or vegan. Congee isn't always made from rice (millet, mung beans, barley, and sorghum are some of the other variations), but rice is by far and away the most common version. It is a popular any time of day - from breakfast to late night, post-pub snack. Every time I make congee, I remember how much I love it, and vow on the spot to make it more often.

This version came from my desire to make something with the strong turkey stock that I made from the bones of our Christmas turkey. Since I'm generally pretty well stocked for Asian condiments and garnish-ingredients, I was able to make this with what was on hand.

It does take a while to cook, but it's fairly low effort, even so: stir it every so often, and it takes care of itself.

Turkey Congee

Serves 2

100 grams (about 1/2 cup) long or short grain rice
1 litre (4 cups) water
250 mL (1 cup) strong turkey stock
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup diced or shredded cooked turkey meat


1 clove of fresh garlic, finely slivered
1 inch fresh ginger, finely slivered
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
cilantro leaves
slices of red chile pepper
a few drops of sesame oil

You can garnish lightly or heavily, depending on what you have on hand:

Other typical congee garnishes might include:

Youtiao (Chinese doughnut/cruller)
hot chile oil
soy sauce (not too much, or it will overwhelm)
pork floss
fried shallots/shallot oil
preserved duck egg
lettuce (stirred in at the end)
sliced mushrooms
preserved greens
...and many more (and that's not even counting featured ingredients, such as the turkey in this version.

Wash your rice well in cool water. Meanwhile, bring the litre of water listed in the recipe to a boil in a medium-large soup pot, and once it is boiling, add the stock and the rice. Reduce the heat to medium-low until the mixture is bubbling enthusiastically, but not at a rolling boil, cock a lid half-on the pot (to let steam escape, and set the timer for 20 minutes. Feel free to stir occasionally.

When the timer goes, give everything a good stir, making sure there's nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan. I like a wooden spoon for this. Taste the broth, and add the salt. Start with 1/2 teaspoon (especially if you are using a salty, commercial turkey stock, or will be adding soy sauce later), and add more later if needed. Stir well and leave it to cook, uncovered, this time, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes on the timer.

When the second timer goes, check on it again. It should be much thicker (and more likely to start sticking to the bottom of the pot), but still not completely at congee-texture. These things take time. Stir it really well, and put the timer on for another 20 minutes, uncovered. At this time, you can chop or shred the turkey meat and have it standing by, and you can start to prepare the other garnishes.

When the timer goes for the third time, add the turkey meat to the congee, and marvel at how much thicker it has gotten. If it is too thick, feel free to add a half-cup of water (or more, but add only a little at a time) until it reach the consistency you like. Let the mixture cook, stirring frequently for 15 - 20 minutes, and then ladle into bowls. Top with the garnishes of your choice, and devour.

The below picture shows the finished congee, just before the garnishes are added. You can see a little of the turkey peeking through, but you can also see how thick the porridge itself is.

November 13, 2016

Salisbury Steak: Hamburger patties in gravy

This was a fairly common meal for us, when I was a child. Easily made, relatively quick to prepare, and tasty. My mother would have had at least one more hot vegetable on each plate (or a salad), as well as a dish of pickles or radishes on the table. She was ahead of her time in making sure we got our vegetables in. Sometimes we'd have mashed potatoes, sometimes merely boiled and left whole (or chopped), sometimes baked.

While there are some ingredient differences between Salisbury steak per se and a simple hamburger patty in gravy (the Salisbury steak is named after Dr JH Salisbury, a proponent of low-carb diets), the method is essentially the same: create a meat patty and fry it up in a skillet, in which a gravy is then built after the patties have browned. There are of course similar dishes all over the world - everything from Japanese hambagu to Russian Koteleta to German Hacksteak, and doubtless many more. Salisbury Steak also holds the perhaps dubious honour of being one of the iconic meals available as a Swanson brand TV Dinner (although it was not the very first offering thereof).

At home in Canada I generally used all beef (or occasionally bison) for the patties, but here in Germany I use either beef or a combination of beef and pork (which is the standard most economical offering of the region). While a certain amount of filler material is apparently acceptable, mine are always just meat and seasoning spices. I make the gravy with either just onions or onions and mushrooms, depending on what I have in the house. The gravy is a bit variable in terms of thickness, because I don't tend to measure the amount of flour that I use. This one is a bit thinner than it often is, but it was equally delicious on the patties and on the mashed potatoes. I use lean meat for these - extra lean makes for a bit of a drier patty.

Salisbury Steaks

Serves 4

500 grams lean ground beef (or beef and pork)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 shake of Tabasco pepper sauce
a bit of all-purpose flour to dust the patties
1 teaspoon butter or oil for frying

For the gravy:
1 medium onion, either sliced pole-to pole or diced
6 button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (or chopped) - optional
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 shakes Worcestershire sauce
pinch of whole mustard seed (optional)
1.5 cups beef broth (or stock from a prepared base, such as Better than Bouillon)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (shaken together with 60 mL water to make a slurry)

If you're making the family style of dinner above, put the potatoes on to boil first. Once they are going, mix together the meat and seasonings with your impeccably clean hands, and shape into four flat patties. Sprinkle the patties with flour on each side, and shake of any excess. Fry them in a large, hot skillet (in which you have melted the butter or heated the oil) over medium heat until well-browned on each side. Don't worry about cooking them through, they will finish cooking in the gravy.

Once the patties have been browned, stack half of them into twos and push them to the side. Add the onions and garlic, and stir through the fond. Add the mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard seeds (if using), and stir and cook until the onions turn translucent and the mushrooms give up some of their liquid. If the pan is too dry, add a tablespoon of water or so at a time until there's no danger of scorching.

Add the beef broth and stir through. Make a slurry of the flour with just enough cold water to make a smooth, thick liquid, and add it to the skillet. Stir it through carefully until it is thoroughly combined with the onions, mushrooms, and stock. It will start to thicken the gravy immediately, but it will take about 20 minutes for the flour to cook through and lose its raw taste, so don't be impatient if it doesn't taste great right away. Spread the patties out in the sauce, lower the heat, and continue to stir periodically, until the gravy has a delicious meaty flavour. You can cover the pan if you like, but I don't usually find it necessary.

If your patties didn't brown very much, your gravy will be pale in colour. It should still taste good, though, but you can get a nicer colour by adding a few drops of dark soy sauce (not regular). This will make it a touch more salty, though, so be aware of that, especially if you're using a salty meat broth or stock.

At this point, the patties can be held for a while if necessary to let the potatoes finish cooking, or to wrangle any other vegetables that you want to include in your meal. Put the lid on if you like to keep to much liquid from evaporating.

Serve up the patties with a spoonful of the gravy over them. These reheat very nicely for lunches the next day, and also make very good sandwiches (I usually slice them horizontally for sandwiches, and add a slice of cheese).

June 15, 2015

Imam Bayīldi - Turkish Eggplant Casserole

Traditional recipes for Imam Bayīldi involve stuffing hollowed out eggplants (or halved eggplants) with onions and spices, and braising them in a surfeit of best quality olive oil until tender. I've made some serious versions in the past, but they've always felt like a lot of work for something that is primarily a side dish to me (although I acknowledge that it makes a terrific main course for lunch). So, naturally, I was very excited to see this streamlined casserole version from Feed Me Phoebe.

The slightly scandalous name, which translates "The Priest Fainted" has entertaining stories as to why exactly, the Imam keeled over - everything from swooning at the deliciousness to fainting at the cost (or sheer amount) of the olive oil. Various other versions abound in the Eastern Mediterranean, varying the spices, or in some cases the vegetables. I assume that there are versions of this that date back to considerably before the introduction of the tomato, but it seems that the tomato-and-onion version is one of the most popular.

Imam Bayīldi

Serves 4

2 small (but not baby) eggplants
Kosher or coarse sea salt
Olive oil (about a third of a cup, total)
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon chile pepper flakes
Dash of cinnamon
Dash ground white pepper
400 mL canned diced tomatoes, with juices
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, divided

Prepare the eggplants by removing the cap and slicing lengthwise into 1/2 centimetre thick slabs. If you cut them into coins, it's much harder to get even coverage of the pan without gaps, so lengthwise is by far the better way to go for this dish. Dissolve a generous tablespoon of salt in hot water, and then add cold water until you have about six cups in a large bowl. Add the eggplant slices and allow them to brine for 10 minutes, or up to 8 hours. Drain, rinse, and press the slices firmly with paper towels or fresh linen towels to dry them out.

In a medium skillet (this one is a 24 centimetre steel skillet), heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it just shimmers. Tilt the pan to ensure the bottom of the pan is well coated. Have a receiving plate standing by. Fry the dried-off eggplant slices, in batches, with a little extra olive oil added between each batch, just until golden on each side - about one or two minutes per side. Remove them to the nearby plate as they finish to make room for the next pieces.

Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F) with a rack in the middle.

When all the eggplant has been fried, start building the sauce in the same (now emptied) skillet. Start by adding a little more olive oil (this is the last addition of olive oil), and then add the onions and garlic. Add a pinch of salt (not much, especially if your canned tomatoes are salty) the chile flakes, the cinnamon, the white pepper, and half of the parsley. Sauté until translucent and tender, and then add the diced tomatoes and their juices, and the tomato paste. Cook altogether until it starts to resemble a sauce, about four or five more minutes. Then remove about 2/3 to 3/4 of the sauce to a nearby bowl, wipe down the edges of the skillet, and start layering the eggplant into the skillet, on top of the bit of sauce that should nicely coat the bottom of the pan. Alternate the layers of eggplant with the layers of tomato sauce, and try to stack the eggplant slices in so they cover the surface of the pan in a neat, jigsaw like fashion. Make sure the top layer is sauce (ideally a thin layer of sauce so you can admire the prettiness of the eggplant slices), and place it, covered, in the preheated oven. If I use small eggplants, I only get two layers from them, but that works nicely with the amount of sauce.

Bake covered for 25 minutes, and then remove the cover and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool somewhat before serving. Garnish with remaining parsley.

This dish is often served at room temperature or even chilled, so it makes a surprisingly good picnic dish (or take to work dish). Paired with a nice chickpea salad, it's a beautiful, satisfying lunch.

May 04, 2013

BBQ Pork Fried Rice

Fried rice is a culinary wonder. How else can you take a few bits of meat, an egg, some scraps of vegetables, and leftover rice, and make a meal worthy of a feast? But...what if you have no leftover rice? Fried rice is the valedictorian in the argument for making more rice than you need to. Still, I've been known to fire up the rice cooker first thing in the morning, to make sure I have "leftover" rice for dinner in the evening. As I did, in fact, this time.

Fried rice can be an intensely personal dish - we all have a favourite version (or versions) that define it in our minds and in the expectations of our stomachs. One of the most delicious ones I know is a dried scallop and egg white fried rice prepared by a local restaurant. It is incredibly pale, with only coins sliced from (I think!) gai lan stalks to relieve the otherwise monochromatic rice-scape. One day, I'll take a crack at making that one, too.

My at-home go-to fried rice, however, is very simple. I pick up some char siu from a Chinese market (or restaurant) on the way home and, if I have successfully avoided simply eating it all straight out of the container, into the skillet it goes.

I make this in a large non-stick skillet, as opposed to a wok, but feel free to use a wok, especially if you have a gas burner that can get it hot enough. As you can see, this goes wonderfully with Beijing Wings and blanched gai lan with oyster sauce (or choy sum with hoisin sauce).

BBQ Pork Fried Rice

Makes about 4 cups

150 grams Chinese barbeque pork
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 small (yellow) onion, finely diced
1 rib celery, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon slivered fresh ginger
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
3 cups steamed rice, cooled
1-2 finely sliced green onions

Dice pork into small cubes and set aside. Separate the cooled rice gently with your fingers (a quick spritz of cooking oil can help) so that no large chunks remain.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in hot skillet and stir-fry yellow onion, celery and ginger for 30 seconds. Add the pork and stir-fry for a further 30 – 60 seconds. Stir in soy sauce and sesame oil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. If you want to add snow or snap peas (a very nice optional extra), add them now, and stir fry for another 30 – 60 seconds. Push everything to the edges of the pan, leaving a bare space in the middle. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and pour the beaten eggs into it. Let the eggs set for a minute, and then add the rice, spreading it quickly around the pan. Stir-fry for a minute or two, using a spatula to break up the eggs into small pieces. Lastly, add spring onions and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds or until well combined and rice is heated through.

Transfer rice to a platter and serve with soy sauce and hot chile oil on the side.

March 04, 2013

Sweet & Sour Balti Chicken

The most shocking thing about this dish is how quick and easy it is. The second most shocking thing is how delicious it is. The only reason for those two things to be in that order is that you have to make it before you can taste it. Fortunately, that doesn't take long.

Many Indian recipes seem daunting, because they contain a laundry list of spices (possibly some obscure, if you don't have a large spice collection), and a great deal of chopping. Most shortcuts involve pre-packaged sauces that, while convenient, never seem to deliver the right intensity of fragrance that one gets from cooking from scratch.

Now, I should confess straight away that there is in fact a convenience item that makes this whole thing work. If you're fanatical about doing everything from scratch, go ahead and make your own hot mango chutney (I suppose you'd need to make your own tomato paste, too, in that case, but your mileage may vary). If you just happen to have some of your own mango chutney jarred up from a canning session, or lurking in the fridge from a recent previous endeavour, then use that (and I salute you!), but you get a pretty good result from a quality store-bought chutney.

This dish isn't precisely sour in the vinegary way that Chinese sweet and sour can be, but the mango chutney (and the yoghurt) give it a tanginess that skews to the sour side of the palate and offsets the sweetness beautifully. You may want to serve a vegetable side dish (or an aggressive array of side condiments). I recommend curry-roasted cauliflower florets, banana (raita or pachadi), or carrot raita to get some more vegetable matter onto your plate, but you could also add some quick-cooking vegetables, such as peas, half-way through the simmering time.

If, like me, you don't have a balti pan, you can use a wok, which is very similarly shaped. Failing that, you can use a large skillet, which works just fine.

Sweet & Sour Balti Chicken

Serves: 4
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 20 minutes

750 grams chicken (boneless, skinless)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons plain Greek yoghurt
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons hot mango chutney
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
¾ cup water
1-2 serrano peppers, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro
2 tablespoons Half & Half / light cream

In a medium bowl, combine the tomato paste, yoghurt, garam masala, cayenne, crushed garlic, mango chutney, salt and sugar, and stir until smooth. If your chutney has huge pieces of mango, you may want to chop them up a bit, otherwise leave any chunks whole.

Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium and scrape the tomato-yoghurt mixture into the hot oil. Stir gently but thoroughly, reduce the heat and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. The paste and the oil will not truly integrate, but remain partially separated - that's okay.

Add the chicken to the pan, and stir to coat evenly with the tomato mixture. Add the water, and stir gently until the sauce becomes smooth and liquid. Simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly. You may lower the heat and add a lid if the sauce is becoming too thick, or add another tablespoon or two of water.

Add half of the serrano chile slices and the light cream, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring gently.

Serve garnished with the remaining chiles and roughly chopped cilantro.

December 30, 2011

Margarita Chicken

This is a great little recipe, which I've only slightly adapted from Cook This! Not That!, and really mostly in terms of adding a few more beans (the two to three tablespoons in the original recipe hardly seemed adequate for a serving), and a side dish of simple red rice.

Now, while the recipe shows you how to easily doctor up a can of black beans (drain, add cumin, heat, add lime juice), if you happen to have some left over Spicy Thick Black Beans, simply use two cups of those, instead - you won't be doing any damage for the extra onion, garlic and pepper in the mix.

Margarita Chicken
Adapted from "Cook This! Not That!"
by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding

Serves 4

Bean Bed
2 cups of black beans, drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
juice from one lime

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 oz. each)
1 cup salsa verde (warmed up, ideally)
1 cup grated Oaxaca cheese
Salt & Pepper as desired
cilantro, for garnish

If you are serving this dish with rice, get it started right away, and you should be able to easily do the rest in the time it takes the rice to cook (unless you're using instant rice, which I can't recommend). A tasty, simple version of red rice is to just add minced onion and a good sprinkle of ground annatto seed, cumin, and a pinch of salt to your regular steamed rice recipe.

Preheat your oven to 450 F, with the oven rack set to the middle. Heat the drained beans in a small saucepan, with the cumin, until thoroughly heated. Add the lime juice and stir through. Turn heat to low (or off), cover and hold until needed. Preheat your salsa in a small saucepan or in a cup in the microwave.

Salt and pepper your chicken lightly on both sides, and sear in a pre-heated skillet until deep golden brown on the first side - about 3 or 4 minutes - then flip over. As it sears on the second side, for another three minutes or so, gently spoon a little salsa verde over each chicken breast, spreading it with the spoon to just reach the edges of the chicken. Sprinkle with grated cheese, and then place uncovered in the oven for about five minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is bubbling.

To serve, spoon a quarter of the beans onto a luncheon-sized plate, and carefully place a chicken breast atop. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro. Add the red rice to the side of the plate, and a couple of slices of avocado, and serve with lime wedges on the side for extra lime goodness. Leftovers work beautifully for lunch - I recommend slicing the chicken breast before stashing it away in the fridge, so it can reheat evenly (and more quickly!). I also deeply suspect that any leftovers, should you be so lucky, would make fantastic burritos. I intend to double the recipe next time, and find out.

The original recipe clocked in, according to the author, at 330 calories per serving. increasing the black beans to 1/2 a cup per serving, and adding a modest amount of red rice (3/4 cup of cooked rice) and even adding a quarter of avocado, raises the meal total to a mere (approximate) 525 calories for the whole meal (roughly 24% of those calories from fat) - absolutely still qualifying as a terrific, healthy dinner.

Quite a few of the other recipes from the book (and its companion publications) are available over at Men's Health.

January 16, 2011

Hamburger Stroganoff Skillet Dinner

First things first: this is, obviously, not a true stroganoff, nor is it pretending to be one. Instead, it's a quick weeknight dinner that only uses one pan and doesn't take a whole lot of time. Bonus points that it is made from ingredients that I'm likely to have on hand. Even better, it has a surprisingly modest caloric payload, which (according to an online recipe calculator) is approximately 400 calories per serving, somewhere in the vicinity of 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Add some fresh steamed veggies for a side dish, and you're licking the plate (and patting your satisfied belly) for under 500 calories. This dish is, I presume, what Hamburger Helper wants to be. Only better, I think, and with less sodium, which means it doesn't send you desperately, repeatedly to your water glass until your insides slosh when you walk. Comfort food!

Hamburger Stroganoff Skillet Dinner

Serves 4

450 grams extra lean ground beef
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup finely diced onions
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
200 g broad/wide egg noodles
1 1/2 teaspoons Better than Bouillon Beef Base (or substitute beef broth for the boiling water below)
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use Liberte's 0% fat)
2 cups sliced mushrooms of your choice
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp cornstarch

In a 12" non-stick skillet, fry the beef, stirring occasionally until well browned. Sprinkle the dry mustard and the salt over the meat and stir again. Add the onions and garlic, cooking and stirring until softened and a bit translucent. Add mushrooms to skillet, and a splash of water to make sure nothing sticks. Add the noodles, beef base, Worcestershire sauce, and boiling water, stir well and bring to a simmer. Shake the half cup of cold water in a lidded container with the flour, until smooth. Add to the skillet and stir well until thoroughly incorporated and gravy starts to thicken up, and then cook over medium heat until noodles are half-done (about 5 minutes). Combine yogurt with cornstarch (so it doesn't break and curdle) in a small bowl and beat with a spoon or whisk until perfectly smooth. Add yogurt mixture to skillet. Cook stirring until mixture thickens to a creamy coating and the noodles are fully cooked.

A crisp salad would be another lovely way to round this out.

August 12, 2010

Spanish Pork Burgers

This was really, really good.

I'd made the Spanish Pork Burger recipe from Eating Well Magazine once before - well, once as burgers, and once as meatloaf, and I liked it. Finally having made it with pimentón de la vera (smoked paprika), and having vastly improved my burger seasoning skills, I absolutely love it.

What else did I do differently? Quite a few things, actually.

This time, I also used a smaller bun, a potato bun from my local supermarket's in-house bakery. It had a very, very slight sweetness to it that complemented the earthy lemon saffron mayonnaise (which sadly, is not visible in the picture, but is a delightful, vivid yellow), and the smokiness of the paprika. The lower bun-to burger patty ratio is generally more satisfying, I think. I didn't use Manchego cheese, this time, I simply used a nutty mozzarella that needed using up, and it was fine, if ever so slightly less Spanish. I didn't grate it, but simply laid it onto the pork patties in the grill pan.

That brings up another thing - the grill pan. This is definitely the right pan for the job - you get the slight char on the striped bits, without blackening the entire surface of the burger. It is infinitely more attractive, but also has a positive effect on the texture and flavour of the meat.

I also used the Piquillo peppers recommended in the recipe as opposed to regular roasted red peppers. I liked the firm texture and the flavour. I used them as a bottom layer between the mayonnaise and the pork patty, topped the pork with the cheese and then the sauteed onions, and then the toasted top bun. No other toppings were needed or wanted - they could be safely relegated to a salad on the side, and consumed leisurely after the burgers were devoured.

And devoured they were. I can hardly wait to have them again.

October 27, 2009

Chicken Teriyaki Donburi = Chikiteridon!

I had no idea that delicious chicken teriyaki was so darn easy.

I've become very interested in Japanese cuisine, of late. I learned how to make maki sushi years ago, but frankly it's not something that I tend to make at home. I have never been to Japan, so my assumptions about the cuisine are somewhat biased by the Japanese restaurants in Vancouver, and somewhat ruthless reading. I'm currently trolling for cookbook recommendations, if you have any suggestions, please leave me a comment or shoot an e-mail my way.

I recently purchased some Japanese rice, and have consequently been playing a little. I've always been fond of donburi - Japanese rice topped with assorted delicious bits - and I had some luck with an oyakodon (chicken and egg donburi) several years ago. Donburi is a favourite (and infinitely variable) and filling lunch when I'm out and about.

Chicken Teriyaki is one of those things that I tend to find, in restaurant preparations, rather too sweet for me, although I do like the flavours. Most of the attractive recipes that I could find specified a mixture of sake, mirin, sugar and soy sauce. Some had ginger and garlic, which doesn't seem to suit the smooth texture of the sauce. The most user-friendly recipe that I found was from Just Bento, a website devoted to the marvels of the bento lunch. This is also where I found the term "Chikiteri", which is quite wonderful. Here is my adaptation.

Chicken Teriyaki
Adapted from Just Bento

Serves 4
Total Prep & Cooking time: 45 minutes, including 30 minutes marinating time

Note: I didn't have mirin (alas! Next time!), so I made do with just sake. The good news is, it was excellent, so don't let a lack of mirin put you off making this as soon as possible.

¼ cup Japanese soy sauce (low sodium)
¼ cup sake
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon plain rice vinegar
6 skinless chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 green onions, sliced diagonally

Mix the soy sauce, sake, rice vinegar and honey in a wide, shallow dish.
Remove any big fatty bits from the chicken and slice the thighs into chopstick-friendly pieces – I cut with the grain into pieces roughly the size of short, fat, carrot sticks. Add the chicken to the soy sauce mixture, stir well, and allow to rest for 15 - 30 minutes (or overnight, if you can plan ahead).

Drain the chicken in a sieve, reserving the marinade.

In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the canola oil over high heat. Once it is hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle, add 1/3 of the drained chicken to the pan in a single layer. Let it cook without moving the pieces for 30 seconds, then add half the remaining chicken in the spaces around the first batch. Allow to cook further 30 seconds undisturbed, then stir through once and add the rest of the chicken to the pan. Let it cook undisturbed for about a minute (you can keep an eye on the earlier pieces, and flip them if they look like they’re going to burn otherwise) and then stir everything through so that the chicken browns and turns glossy on all sides.

Add the reserved marinade and stir through. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is a lovely dark golden brown and the sauce has reduced to the desired consistency.
Serve with Japanese rice, and garnish with green onions. Stir fried snow peas and shiitake mushrooms make a lovely accompaniment.

Garnish with green onion. Serve with Japanese rice, preferably, and some crisply cooked vegetables (upon reflection, I should have added some ginger to the mushrooms above).

January 20, 2008

Soup Weather (Brown Lentil & Tomato Soup)

Winter, particularly its snowy, rainy, and slushy bits, is the weather for enjoying a good steaming bowl or mug of soup. I like soup. I especially like soup that has an identity. While I grew up with the ever-evolving (mutating?) pot of "Heirloom Soup", which served a terrific purpose and was generally tasty, there is certainly something to be said for creating a soup that will dependably turn out to be exactly what you are craving.

Lentil soups are often on the uninteresting side - serviceable, but not truly delicious. Oh, there are exceptions, of course, and much depends on the nature of the type of lentil being used. For a hearty yet basic brown-lentil soup that is full of vegetables, I have been developing this particular recipe for a few months now, and have come to the conclusion that it overtakes all others in terms of a go-to, dependable, delicious winter lentil soup. Its foundation is European, somewhat along the lines of an Italian soup, but I've never really tasted one quite like it. The addition of red wine vinegar at the end perks up the flavours remarkably, and contributes substantially to the overall depth of flavour.

It is much more handsome if you add a cup of finely chopped parsley (or indeed, a fine chiffonade of spinach) and stir it in right at the end, and the fresh, scarcely cooked greenery adds a certain brightness of flavour that is very pleasing, too. However, if you are planning to freeze the soup for future lunches and dinners, you may wish to leave those out, and add them upon re-heating. The soup in the photo is greenery free, because I forgot that I was out of both parsley and spinach when I started making it. It was still very tasty.

I have yet to try this as a purely vegetarian (or indeed, as it would be, vegan) soup, which would entail exchanging the beef stock for vegetable, but I am confident that this particular recipe would be delicious either way. Next time I plan to try it as a vegetarian version, with the added spinach as suggested above, and (possibly) with a little hit of cumin.

Brown Lentil & Tomato Soup

Makes about 8 cups

1 cup dry brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 stalk of celery, strung and diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
1 1/2 cups small-diced carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups beef stock (I use Better Than Bouillon)
2 cups water
2 bayleaves
1 14 oz./398 ml. crushed tomatoes (I prefer no salt added)
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves (less, if powdered)
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (to taste - start small)
1 cup finely chopped parsley (or spinach)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and carrots until the onions are tender and a little translucent. Season with white pepper, bay leaves, oregano, and add the garlic. Stir through. Add the drained lentils, the beef broth, the crushed tomatoes, and the water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and let cook at a low temperature (bubbles just barely breaking the surface of the soup) with the lid on, until the lentils are tender - 30 to 35 minutes. Taste, and add salt if needed. If the soup is thicker than you like, stir in a little more water. Stir in vinegar, parsley (or spinach). Taste, and add more vinegar if you like.

If you like the look of the perfectly round little carrot pieces, use "baby" carrots, and simply slice them into coins. Otherwise, dice as you like. I think that a sort of evenness of size makes a soup like this the most attractive but, certainly, feel free to to adapt as the spirit moves you.

November 10, 2007

Comfort Food: Chili Mac

If there's one thing that the chilly autumn weather and the battling of health issues have in common, it's that comfort food makes them recede a little into the background, leaving instead (if only temporarily) a swathe of warm, well-fed well being.

It's a little funny to me that this dish, Chili Mac, is a comfort food for me, because it is something that I never had growing up. However, we did have a lot of chili, and if this had occurred to my mother as an option, I'm certain she would have made it, and often, at that.

The type of chili necessary for this dish is the uber-basic ground meat and bean style chili, which can be made very quickly and without much fuss. My standard, go to recipe is called "20 Minute Chili" because it is really that quick to knock together, and while chili is always better the next day, it's pretty good as is, shored up with lots of spices. This kind of thick chili can be made from simple pantry/freezer staples, and it freezes most excellently itself, ready to be hauled out and used for anything from Chili Mac to chili dogs, or even as a filling for a fluffy omelette!

Assuming that one has the chili already in the freezer, Chili Mac is dead easy to make (even for someone whose hands don't always work very well). The meat, onions and peppers, and other things that require knife-wielding have, for the most part, already been done, and it becomes a simple skillet dinner of patience and stirring (topped with a little cheese, and maybe some green onion and/or cilantro).

You can use your own favourite ground-meat chili here. Heck, you could even use your own favourite vegetarian chili. It's very adaptable. It uses the absorption method, so you only mess up one pot, which is also good. It's sort of like making a risotto out of pasta, only much less fussy.

Chili Mac

3 cups prepared chili (defrosted)
1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
2 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth (or water)
1 cup tomato sauce

Optional garnishes:
Grated cheese
Sliced green onion
Chopped cilantro
Extra hot sauce

In a 12" non-stick skillet with high sides, heat up the chili until bubbly. Add the uncooked macaroni, the broth (or water) and the tomato sauce, and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook and stir intermittently for about 10 minutes, or until the macaroni is cooked to your liking. The liquid should be mostly absorbed, but the dish should still be a little saucy. If your heat was too high, and your liquid evaporated to quickly, you may need to add a little more water (or, for example, if you like your macaroni well-cooked instead of al dente).

Dish up and garnish as you see fit. If there are any leftovers, they warm up nicely for lunch the following day.

May 10, 2007

Chicken & Rice

Arroz con pollo. Oyakodon. Murgh Biryani. Hainanese Chicken Rice. Risotto con Pollo. Chicken and rice seem to go naturally together, and just about every culture that eats both chicken and rice has some special dish that proves it. My mother's dish, expositorily called "Chicken and rice" was baked a roasting pan in the oven, and involved an entire dis-jointed chicken, and brown rice. We only ever had brown rice, that I recall. My sister remembers white rice when she was very young, but she is six years older than I, and our household diet definitely took a turn for the hippy-healthy by the time I was born.

The only vegetables I remember there being were onion, celery and carrots, but it was a flavourful, chickeny dish, and it was a big favourite with all of us.

Oh, how I loved that chicken and rice! Sometimes, in the summer, my mother would wrap up the roasting pan in old towels, once it was ready, and we would drive down to the picnic tables at the Provincial Park beach a few minutes down the road. We would pack up our bottle of soya sauce, the only approved condiment, inexplicably, and our dishes and head down to the rocky beach and watch the seagulls swoop and swirl, and run around on the big grassy area. We didn't usually swim, because the dinner was ready to eat now, and afterwards, of course, we had to wait for an hour (or so), and it was usually too cool, by then.

Since I am not cooking for a family of five, I don't make mine the same way. In fact, I don't use brown rice, either, but opt for parboiled rice to ensure that it doesn't turn mushy with stirring. I usually use the leftover, de-boned chicken from a roasted chicken, and I cook the rice in good, homemade chicken stock. But, I still use onion, carrot, and celery, and I still season it with soya sauce.

Chicken & Rice

Serves 2 - 3

Cold roast chicken meat - 1/2 chicken's worth, chopped
1 cup / 200 g. parboiled (converted, not instant!) rice
1 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 bayleaves
1 large sprig fresh thyme, or a pinch of powdered thyme
1 small onion, diced somewhat finely
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 stalks of celery, washed, strung and sliced or diced, as you like
2 medium carrots, cut into quarter slices
pinch of oregano, optional
freshly chopped parsley, optional

In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, sautee the bayleaves, onion, garlic, celery and carrots in the canola oil until the onion turns translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper, the thyme (stems and all), plus dried oregano (if using). I you want to get wild and throw a chile in here, that would probably be really nice.

Add the rice and stir around until the grains are all coated with the canola oil, and then add the stock, all at once. Add the chopped chicken meat (make sure any skin is removed).
Bring the stock to a simmer, place the lid on firmly, and reduce heat to absolute minimum.

Cook on very, very low temperature for about 20 minutes, or until the rice has fully cooked and absorbed the stock. Remove from heat, fluff, remove the bayleaves and thyme stems, and serve. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley if you like, and a sprinkle of soy sauce.

This heats up beautifully the next day for lunch, if you have leftovers or are thinking ahead enough to make extra. Since the proportions are at-will, you can play with the ratio of vegetables and chicken to rice based on your budget and still have a terrific-tasting dish. Remember to save the bones of the leftover roast chicken to make some stock to have on hand in the freezer, for next time...