Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Chicken, Bok Choy, and Shiitake Mushroom Stirfry with Brown Rice

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Growing up in Woodstock NY in the ’70s, I ate my fair share of tempeh, homemade yogurt, and stirfries heavily seasoned with any old spices or condiments that happened to be hanging around, particularly large doses of tamari (Japanese wheat-free soy sauce). In general, I’m not a huge fan of the whole Moosewood school of cooking, but every so often, I get a craving for something inauthentically Asian, by way of the health food store. My version here contains chicken (so there, vegetarians!) as well as bok choy, shitake mushrooms, and toasted almonds. You can be very creative with stirfries, but there are some key principles to follow:

  • Remember that each of the ingredients has its own optimal cooking time. After you’ve finished your prep, come up with a game plan for adding (and in some cases, temporarily removing) ingredients so that nothing is over- or under-cooked.
  • Just because it’s in your fridge doesn’t mean it belongs in your dish. Try to use ingredients that complement one another in flavor, sweetness, color, and texture.
  • Watch how much soy sauce/tamari etc. you use! Rather than indiscriminately dumping in more of any condiment when you need to add moisture to the pan, I like to mix up a batch of sauce that tastes balanced to me, which I usually make somewhat diluted with either water or broth. Then I add that instead of a squirt of soy sauce. That way you don’t wind up with any one flavor dominating.

I like it with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top, proving that you can be nostalgic for anything.

For the rice:

Start the rice first, since it takes a while to cook.

1 cup brown rice
2 1/4 cups water
pinch of salt

Combine in a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (don’t cover just yet though.) Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

For the stirfry:

2 boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/8 inch slices
1 lb baby bok choy, washed, ends removed, and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
20 large shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch scallions, washed and sliced into wedgy-julienne (long diagonal slices, turning the scallion after each cut so that the layers of each slice will separate )
1 small red jalapeno, cut into fine dice
1 tsp vegetable oil

1/2 cup toasted almond slivers

For sauce:

2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp agave syrup
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup chicken broth

Combine all sauce ingredients except chicken broth, and taste. Should taste balanced, a little sweet, a little sour, a little salty. Add half the sauce to a bowl with the sliced raw chicken to marinate, and then add the chicken broth to the remaining sauce to use during cooking.

Heat a large saute pan or a wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil, then the chicken, and brown lightly on all sides until chicken is cooked through. Remove from the pan and reserve. Add mushrooms and bok choy and saute for several minutes, until bok choy leaves wilt and their stems turn bright green and soften. Add sauce as needed to prevent sticking or the bottom of the pan getting brown & crusty. Add jalapeno and scallions, and saute for two more minutes, until the scallions soften. Add toasted almonds and serve with brown rice.

Serves 4.

If you have leftovers, combine the stirfry and rice, and saute in a little extra vegetable oil with an egg for some tasty fried rice.

June Farmer’s Market Supper

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Carmelized Scallops, Sugar Snap Peas with Mint, and Roasted Beet Salad

The McCarren Park Farmer’s Market is starting to get exciting! The fish guys have been here for a few weeks (although sadly, no weakfish), but now my favorite weird vegetable guy is back, along with stalwarts RonnyBrook Farm, RedJacket Orchard and Dines Farms, among others. To celebrate, I made a super-plain, super-fresh dinner of fresh vegetables, herbs, and scallops.

If you want to make everything, the beets take about 1 1/2 hours, so start them first, then do the prep and cook the scallops and peas once the beets are finished roasting.

For Beets

1 bunch small- to medium-sized beets, greens and tips trimmed off
3 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp walnut or olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Wrap beets individually in aluminium foil. Roast 1+ hours. When beets are done, a knife should pierce them easily. Remove beets from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Remove skins, and cut into regular cubes. Dress in remaining ingredients.

For Scallops

10 large sea scallops, muscle removed (the little tough bit stuck to the side)
1/2 tbsp butter
kosher salt
pepper
1/3 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lemon

Heat a heavy-bottomed medium-large size saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add half the butter to the pan, and swirl to coat the surface. Place scallops in the pan on one flat end, in order from largest to smallest (so that the larger scallops cook for slightly longer.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Do not shake the pan or move the scallops in any way for 2 minutes, then carefully turn them over (tongs are the best scallop turner,) sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for another two minutes. Remove scallops to a warm plate, add the remaining butter, and cook the garlic in the butter for 30 seconds until just barely beginning to turn golden. Add wine and swirl over the bottom of the pan to deglaze, then use a rubber spatula to bring up any bits of scallop or friedness. Reduce to about two tbsp, and spoon over scallops before serving. Serve with lemon wedge.

For Peas

1/2 lb fresh sugar snap peas
1 tsp butter
1 bunch purple scallions, cut into julienne
a good handful of mint leaves, pulled from their stems and cut into chiffonade
salt

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add peas and saute for several minutes, until the peas turn bright green and lose any trace of “uncooked” taste. Just as they’re finishing, add scallions and mint and saute for about 30 more seconds until scallions lose their sharpness. Remove from heat and add salt to taste.

Serves 2.

Mediterranean Salad

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Kind of like a Greek salad. I assembled it on a platter surrounded by triangles of toasted pita bread, and served hummus on the side.

For Salad

4 cups washed and well-dried mesclun mix
1/2 cucumber, washed with soap and water, dried, 1/2 peeled in alternating stripes, and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 ripe medium tomato, diced
20 medium-large mint leaves, washed, dried, and cut into chiffonade
12 kalamata olives
1/3 cup toasted Marcona almonds*
1/2 cup creamy Israeli feta, cubed

For Dressing

1 clove garlic, pressed
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp snipped chives

2 tbsp olive oil

For Finishing

Maldon Sea Salt

Layer the salad ingredients in a platter or bowl. In a bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, and chives. Whisk with a fork while gradually drizzling in olive oil. Pour dressing evenly over salad, sprinkle with salt, and serve immediately. You can either toss or just serve in vertical sections.
Serves 2.
* Marcona almonds are a Spanish variety of almond with a slightly richer taste, somewhat like a Macadamia nut.

Mustard Panko Chicken

Monday, June 11th, 2007


Julia Child was on to something with this recipe for Chicken Broiled with Mustard, Herbs, and Breadcrumbs, although the multi-step broiling process seems too complicated for what could just be a tasty thing to cook after work on a weeknight. We like it with sauteed kale or a green salad and mashed sweet potatoes, although when I made it the other night I had half a loaf of olive bread from Bouley Bakery left over and going stale which I turned into a panzanella with olives, tomatoes, some creamy Israeli feta, basil, and pine nuts. It’s great either with homemade breadcrumbs or panko, and, as Julia suggests, the perfect wine to drink is a rosé.

8 chicken thighs, boneless or with bones
4 tbsp melted butter
1/3 cup dijon mustard (not the grainy kind)
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup panko or homemade breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried thyme or tarragon
1 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375°. In a small bowl, combine butter , mustard, and garlic. In another small bowl, combine panko, dried thyme or tarragon, salt, and pepper. Coat the chicken pieces thoroughly but lightly with the mustard-butter combination, then with the panko-or-breadcrumb mixture. Place in a baking dish that is big enough so that none of the pieces are touching, and bake until done. This should be about 25-30 minutes for boneless pieces and about 10 minutes longer with bones.

Lemony Roast Chicken

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Easy, inexpensive, and highly delicious, roast chicken is the preferred Sunday night supper around our house. The basic recipe I use is a slight variation on the one my mother has made since I was little. Between the two of us, my mother and I have roasted a hundreds of chickens, and here in print for the very first time are our tried-and-true methods. Roast chicken is great with any number of accompaniments, but my favorites are mashed Yukon Gold potatoes or yams, roasted Cipollini onions, and a simple green salad.

Chicken Procurement

The first step is selecting a chicken. It’s easy to see the difference between naturally-raised chickens and their factory-farmed counterparts – factory farmed chickens are unappealingly yellow, unsavory and fatty looking, and ooze gross liquid from their packaging, where natural chickens have creamy skin and a much more firm, dry, and plump appearance. I prefer Bell and Evans chickens. They’re air-chilled, raised on natural feed, and allowed to roam freely. Also tasty are Whole Foods chickens. Don’t shy away from spending a few extra dollars for a high-quality chicken. It’s simply not worth wasting your time with inferior ingredients, and even spending up, you’ll still be paying $7-8 for a whole bird, which will easily feed four normal appetites. I usually buy a 3.5-4 lb chicken.

Salt Cure (optional)

If you have 12-24 hours before you need to cook the bird, I recommend a simple salt-and-pepper cure to improve the chicken’s flavor. I only started curing chickens about a year ago, and it certainly is not a requirement, although it definitely has a positive impact on the outcome. To cure the chicken, combine 2 tablespoons of coarsely flaked sea salt (Maldon is my favorite) with about ½ tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper. Remove the chicken from its packaging, and remove the neck and any other extras from inside its body cavity. (Note on the odd bits: I throw the neck in the pan to generate more tasty chicken juice, but you could also use it to make a quick stock. You can reduce this further and combine with pan drippings later to make really fantastic gravy, see recipe below.) Place the chicken in a small roasting pan. A Pyrex pie pan, an All-Clad sauté pan, or a cast iron skillet will all do nicely. Fold the wing tips under the body. Using your fingers, detach the skin from the chicken breasts and thighs. Trim any large pieces of fat away from the neck and cavity areas. Rub the chicken inside the cavity and under the skin with the salt and pepper mixture. Cover loosely with waxed paper and refrigerate until you’re ready to roast. DO NOT salt-cure unless you have at least 12 hours before cooking, or the salt will not have time to adequately disperse through the chicken and you will have a salty bird.

Preparation

When you’re ready to cook the bird, preheat the oven to 500°. Slice 4-5 cloves of garlic and quarter 1 organic lemon, and place inside the cavity. I used to truss chickens (to the delight of more perverse acquaintances, I often trussed them in their own skin, making a slit in the lower breast skin on one side and slipping the opposite drumstick into the hole) but I find that you can roast in less time with more even results by leaving the legs be. You’ll also be rewarded with more crispy skin. Next, and it is helpful to have an assistant at this juncture, pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into your hands and rub it all over the chicken. Shake about 1½ teaspoons of paprika over the top of the chicken for an even dusting, followed by 1-2 tablespoons dried thyme. If you did not cure the chicken, season well with salt and pepper.

You’ll notice this recipe does not call for stuffing the bird with bread-based stuffing; as a matter of fact, I’m fairly opposed to this practice as it means longer cooking times and drier birds. I love stuffing just as much as the next person, I just prefer to bake it in its own dish, as opposed to up a chicken’s butt.

Before you pop the chicken into the oven, press down on one of the back legs and note the texture of its motion as it returns to its original position. Make a mental note of this, as this is what “raw” feels like. As you become more practiced, you may be able to use this as a method for determining when your chicken is done.

Roasting

Place the chicken in the oven with the rack set so the bird is right in the middle. Roast for about 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°. Roast for another hour or so. For your first few chickens, I recommend checking for doneness by piercing the spot where the thigh joins the body. Clear juice indicates that the bird is done, whereas pinkish or bloody juice means back to the oven. Keep up with the “pressing the back leg down” test to see how the motion and feeling changes as the chicken approaches done-ness. Resist the urge to open the oven door where possible, however, as you’ll lose heat very quickly.

Once the chicken is done, remove from the oven and cover with a tent of aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Carving

To carve, place the chicken on a cutting board. If you have one with a gutter around the edges for catching juice, use that one, otherwise be prepared to waste tasty juice and paper towels. Using a sharp kitchen knife, slice away the skin between the leg and the breast until you can tell where the connecting joint is. There’s a “sweet spot” where you can easily slice through the joint, separating the leg from the body. Angle the knife toward the body and rotate the leg a bit to get the best access. Once you’ve removed both legs, slice diagonally between the drumstick and the thigh to separate. Place on a a warmed platter, and keep covered with aluminum foil. Next, slice away the wings with a small piece of breast meat. Again, there’s a sweet spot, be patient and poke away with the knife until you find it. Next, slice from the top of the breast along the bones of the rib cage to remove the breast in one whole large piece. Slice across the breast into 1/2 inch slices. Repeat with the other breast. This is as far as the civilized usually go, but the truly enlightened know that the best bits of all are hidden on the back — flip the carcass over and feel around for the juicy “oysters.” These are best removed and consumed kitchen-side.

Now pour the carving-juice back into the pan, and use it and a whisk to loosen tasty drippings from the bottom of the pan. If there is a lot of fat, tilt the pan so that the juices accumulate in one corner. The fat will rise to the top, where you can skim it off with a spoon. Pour the pan juices over the carved chicken, and serve immediately.

Fancy Gravy

In a small sauce-pan, combine the chicken neck, a stalk of celery sliced into pieces, a small sliced onion, a sliced carrot, a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, 3-4 cups of water, and a few peppercorns. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 45 minutes, then strain out the solids. Continue to simmer until volume is reduced by half.

When the chicken is done, pour carving juices back into the pan and place over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup white wine and whisk the sticky drippings up from the bottom of the pan. Add 1-2 tablespoons flour and whisk for a few minutes more. Add wine or stock gradually until you achieve desired volume (about 1 cup usually), whisking continually. Gravy is done when it thickens, after 3-4 minutes. Taste and correct seasonings.

Cheesy Mac for Hippies

Friday, February 24th, 2006

I have invented health food store Hamburger Helper. You can make it in about 1/2 an hour using only one large pan. My health food store has packages of natural lean hamburger for about $7/lb, and the other ingredients are readily available. I don’t know that this is actually all that much better for you than real Hamburger Helper, but at least there are fewer preservatives and the tomatoes are real. Also, I guarantee it is superior in tastiness.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean organic ground beef
salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
splash of white or red wine
1 can Muir Glen whole peeled tomatoes
the same can full of water
1 tbsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 boxes Annie’s Shells and Cheese
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated parmeggiano-reggiano (optional)

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan with a lid. Add ground beef and brown, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, and add diced onions to pan. Sauté until softened, splashing the pan with wine if the bottom gets to dry or crusty. Add garlic and sauté for one minute. Add the meat back in, and add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hand (poke a hole in them with your thumb first to avoid the dreaded tomato squirt). Add thyme, bay leaves, water and pasta from both boxes of Annie’s and cover. Go away and do something else for 15-20 minutes. When you come back, check the pasta for done-ness. Assuming it’s cooked to your desired al dentation, add the Annie’s cheese packages and stir. If it’s too wet, turn the heat to high and stir like heck for a few minutes. If it’s too dry, add more water and cook a few minutes more. Add butter and stir. Correct seasonings. Enjoy. For even more enjoyment, pour into a 9×12 casserole, top with grated cheese, and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Makes about 8 normal person servings or 4 really hungry person servings.

Gratinée of Cauliflower

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

A side dish for a very fancy dinner party, or a main course with a salad and a bottle of white wine. From the wonderful Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook.

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips
Florets of 1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1/4-inch lengthwise slices
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the prosciutto and sauté 2 minutes more.
3. Add the cauliflower and cook just until it begins to lose its crispness,3 to 4 minutes.
4. Stir in the flour and then the cream. Blend well. Season with the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Heat to boiling and immediately remove from heat.
5. Pour the cauliflower into a shallow au gratin dish. Top with the cheese and parsley. Bake until the top is lightly browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

Chicken Fricasee

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

I love cozy wine-flavored winter stews: this is a classic based on a recipe from Julia Child. In From Julia Child’s Kitchen this recipe appears side by side with the recipe for Coq au Vin, as the techniques and ingredients are so similar — a quick sauté followed by a slow simmer in a wine-y liquid.

This is a simple recipe. The most time consuming part is peeling the pearl onions, one of the all-time most irritating kitchen chores, on a par with washing lettuce or peeling butternut squash. You can cut this time in half by blanching the onions in boiling water for about 45 seconds and allowing them to cool for a few minutes before peeling. Make sure this is finished before you start the chicken.

Because the wine makes up such a high percentage of the cooking liquid, it’s best to choose something you’d be more than happy to drink on its own. My choice would be a nicely balanced French chardonnay or pinot gris. Serve this over rice, wild rice, basmati rice, or egg noodles. Serves 6 as a hearty supper or 10-12 as a light meal.

2 1/2 lbs chicken parts, patted dry
4 tbsp butter
salt & pepper
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tbsp dried thyme
30-40 peeled yellow or white pearl onions
2 cups decent quality white wine
up to 1 quart chicken broth
3/4 lb button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup heavy cream
1 bunch fresh tarragon

Melt butter over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan with a cover (the Le Crueset dutch oven, pictured, is ideal.) Sauté chicken for 10-15 minutes until the exterior firms up, turning frequently so it doesn’t brown. The skin should be pale golden in color. Add salt, pepper, dried tarragon, thyme, and onions, and cover. Cook for about 10 more minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir. Remove from heat and add wine, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add chicken broth to cover, replace over medium-high heat and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes, until chicken pieces are cooked through. Add mushrooms and simmer a few minutes more. Turn heat to low. Stir in cream and fresh tarragon, and serve immediately.

NOTE FOR DISAPPOINTED FRICASSEURS: The fact that your fricasee failed to thicken is MY FAULT. This shit’s supposed to have flour in it. You’re at least as good a cook as me, and a better copy editor.