Archive for the ‘Poultry, Meat and Seafood’ Category
I should have known I’d return to Jerusalem once the weather started getting warmer. Lately, I’ve been wanting flavors that are fresh, spicy, complex, and/or filled with herbs, so it only makes sense, really. Last weekend when my brother was here, I turned to Jerusalem to make its herb pie. Which was completely delicious—I mean, how does flaky sheets of phyllo dough surrounding a lemony filling of greens and cheese sound to you? My only real issue with it is it’s name: herb pie. This is when I know things are not meant to be translated out of their original language, because I am positive that whatever herb pie translates to in its Sephardic Balkan language (or whatever language), it sounds much more delicious than herb pie.
Anyway, I quickly scouted out this dish next, kofta b’siniyah. Once again, I think that sounds much better than what my loose translation of it would be, which is something like “warmly spiced meatballs filled with pine nuts, shaped into football-like things, served over tahini.” I was pretty pleased with myself for choosing this dish to make, though. For one, it allowed me to add another meatball recipe to my scanty repertoire (erm, it’s actually really the only one there as of now). I think I make meatballs way less than I should, and by that, I mean that I’ve made meatballs like twice over the past year.
Meatballs feel like the type of thing that good cooks should have down pat, and I’ve got a long way to go. This recipe seems like a really good one to have on hand, no matter the time of year. I can see myself eating this during the wintertime, but the combination of the kick from the red chili with the herbs and tahini sauce all give it this feel that make it seem fresh for when the sun is out too. Especially when served with a bright salad—Ottolenghi and Tamimi suggest to serve this with a tomato-cucumber salad and pita, which is exactly what I did. I almost feel like I could just eat the tomato-cucumber salad with some pita by itself as a sufficient dinner in the summertime, but I feel like we have time yet for that, don’t we? Ah I forget how good simple food in summer—aka the season of things-on-toast-for-dinner—tastes.
And anyway, I guess when we are serving other hungry people and guests, vegetables on toast don’t always quite cut it. These meatballs wouldn’t be a bad thing to turn to when you need something with a bit more protein and fat. Plus, entertain me: isn’t it such a beautiful dish? I know just about everything in Jerusalem is extremely beautiful and photogenic (ahem, the herb pie is the only one possibly on the border), but this dish especially strikes me. It was pretty fun nestling the meatballs in their delicious tahini bath, before sprinkling nuts, herbs and spices over the top. I am positive there is a correlation with beautiful food and how beautiful it makes us feel (fat included).
Song of the Week: I’ll Fly Away, by Gillian Welch & Allison Krauss. I was in an old used bookstore the other day, and this big, friendly man working there was playing the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack—a movie that is pure brilliance, and if you think otherwise I’m not sure we watched the same movie—and it made me so happy. Something about that folky, bluesy old South feel that just makes you feel lazy in a very very good way.
One Year Ago: Flourless Chocolate Torte Revisted & a Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
Two Years Ago: Espresso Ice Cream and a Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake
Serves 6, or more
14 ounces ground lamb
14 ounces ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
scant 1/2 cup (50 grams) pine nuts, toasted and chopped
about 3 good handfuls (30 grams) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup (150 grams) light tahini
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
1 tablespoon oil
toasted pine nuts, to garnish
finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
paprika, to garnish
First, prepare the meatball mixture. Place the ground meats, onion, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, spices, and about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix it all together gently until it’s pretty well combined. Pinch off pieces the size of big golf balls and shape into “long, torpedo-like fingers” that are about 8 centimeters long and that weigh about 2 ounces of 60 grams. Set them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill to rest while you prepare everything else until you’re ready to cook them. This can be done up to one day ahead of time.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. To make the tahini sauce, whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, water, garlic, and another couple good pinches of salt. The consistency should be “a bit runnier than honey;” dribble in some water slowly if you need to thin it out. Set aside.
Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large, deep saucepan over high heat. Working in batches to make sure not to overcrowd the pan, sear the meatballs until they’re deeply golden brown on all sides, which will take about 6 minutes per batch (I think mine shown in the pictures might have been seared a tad too long). At this point, they’ll only be cooked to about medium-rare. Remove from the skillet and set on the prepared baking sheet. Cook in the preheated oven for about 4 minutes until cooked through (if you have really good meat, freshly ground, Ottolenghi would encourage you to cook these for only a couple minutes so that they’re cooked to medium).
Spoon the tahini sauce on a big serving plate; arrange the meatballs on top. Scatter toasted pine nuts, parsley, and a sprinkling of paprika over the top. Serve immediately, with pita and preferably a nice sharp tomato-cucumber salad.
I was sitting here with a blank screen of a blog post, when I turned to my mom asking her what I should write about. Without averting her eyes from the TV program she was watching—The Big Bang Theory, a program we have both shamelessly fallen for—she immediately said, “Um maybe that it’s the best thing you’ve ever made? And that the sauce is to die for?”
There’s a saying in Mexico that “hunger makes the best sauce,” and I think it is partly this sauce that made my mom almost worship the fish tacos I made for dinner this week. She came home ravenous, and when one comes home in that state, it doesn’t matter whether she has New Year’s resolutions or not to make panko-crusted fish tacos with a spicy ancho chile mayonnaise and a crunchy cabbage slaw wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla sound and taste like the best thing.
But, to give her some credit, we all loved them. I kind of had a vision of how I thought the “perfect” fish taco would be, and this is what I came up with: the flavoring of the fish was kept simple, but I wanted a crunchy texture. I baked the filleted fish in a panko-coating, just because I thought it would be healthier than deep-frying it. (And obviously easier—still haven’t gotten over my fear of deep-frying yet.) I wanted a lot of the flavor to come from the sauce, and with ancho chiles and a whole lot of fat, I think the pink chile mayonnaise from Tyler Florence did the job. Seriously, I want to smother it on everything. And finally, I wanted a crunchy cabbage slaw, dressed with a tart vinaigrette that counter-balanced the fat of the chile mayonnaise. What resulted was something I’d like to think we all found pretty perfect. I think it may in fact deserve the title as The Fish Taco of My Dreams.
Eating these fish tacos made me wonder why I don’t make them more often, let alone order them at restaurants every once in awhile. As much as I love hearty stews and carb-heavy meals during the wintertime, I feel like getting a taste of tropical flavors is something that is really doing me some good. Something about the flavors of the lime, mango, and chile that just does something to a person when there’s freezing temperatures outside.
One Year Ago: Mom’s Bran Muffins
Panko-Crusted Fish Tacos
Do not assemble the tacos until right before they’re going to be eaten; the crunch of the baked fish fades the longer it sits soaking in the chile mayonnaise and cabbage slaw.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups panko-style bread crumbs
1 pound flaky, mild, white fish, like rockfish, tilapia, or mahi mahi, patted dry and cut into wide approximately 1 1/2 by 3 inches
flour tortillas, warmed
spicy chile mayonnaise (recipe below)
cabbage slaw (recipe below)
limes, to garnish
1 mango, peeled and sliced into strips
1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced into strips
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
In a wide, shallow bowl or dish, whisk to combine the flour, paprika, and a liberal amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. In another wide dish, add the eggs. In a third dish, add the panko. Place them side-by-side, with the flour dish first and the panko dish last, to create a fish breading station. Taking one fish stick at a time, cover in flour, tap off excess; dip into the egg, shake off excess; and then cover in the panko, making sure to use your finger to press the panko bread crumbs onto the fish. Place on the prepared baking sheet and continue the process of breading the rest of the fish. Once all are prepared and placed on the baking sheet, bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the fish is flaky white on the inside.
To assemble the fish tacos, take a warm flour tortilla, add a couple of the panko-crusted fish, top with a few good tablespoons of the pink spicy chile mayo, and add as much cabbage slaw, lime juice, and mango slices to suit your tastes.
Spicy Chile Mayonnaise
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 chipotle chilis in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend on a high speed until smooth, consistent, and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
After about an hour or two this slaw becomes slouchy and not as crisp as you’d like. I made it before the fish tacos so it could sit to soak up the flavors, but I used it as soon as the tacos were done.
1/2 head Napa or Savoy cabbage
1 jalepeno, seeded and minced
1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine the cabbage, jalapeno, red onion and cilantro in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the lime juice and vinegar together. In a slow, steady stream, add in the olive oil while whisking constantly. Season well with salt and pepper. Add in to the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Let sit for about a half hour to let the flavors combine.
I’m not really one to go to what is commonly thought of as stereotypical college parties. Especially those of a small, nothing-else-to-do town, where everyone from the small, nothing-else-to-do liberal arts college cram into one big house. People, it gets crowded in those houses, and by crowded I mean sweaty and gross and hot. I don’t mean to sound too lame, but just the thought of that gives my claustrophobic self some anxiety.
Considering this, it’s not like I was looking forward to turning 21 almost half a year ago and the freedom of buying alcohol as that big of a deal (not that it’s that big of a deal to underage students around here anyway, but I digress). I figured, eh, I’ve lived 21 years just fine without being able to buy it, not much is going to change just because all of a sudden, one day I can.
Oh, how I was wrong! Once I turned 21, I felt like a different person. A whole citizen, who could do whatever I wanted! No matter if I despised the idea of drinking by myself and the only form of alcohol that doesn’t taste like rubbing alcohol to me is wine and ciders—no, that doesn’t matter at all. The point is that I could walk into any store I’d like, and purchase whatever I wanted in it. I’d walk through the wine aisles in grocery stores and feel satisfied that nothing was out of reach for me. I don’t mean to sound over the top (even though I’ve probably already reached that threshold), but almost began to think in my head that my pre-21-self was a poor, lowly, marginalized person in America who wasn’t extended the full rights that I should be entitled to. It ended up being a very big deal to me, obviously.
Anyway, I buy alcohol sometimes now. Yeah, I’ve become not only the stereotypical college student that has some form of alcohol in the cupboards, I’ve become the greater-yet-stereotypical snobby, cultured college student that snubs my nose at almost all beer but will pretend to recognize different wines. Oh well, that’s how it goes. I like it, because instead of wishing I had some good beer for Waylon and I to drink with the homemade soft pretzels I made last spring, now I can make that happen. When I want to make risotto, I can use white wine, and not just chicken stock. When I want to make coq au vin, key word vin, I actually can. Can you see, now, why this is something of a slight revelation to me? Any recipe is accessible to me. Hopefully you guys will hold me accountable to that and make me actually try experimenting with new things.
Anyway, about this chicken that has vin. Yes, it’s a quick and dirty version of the classic coq au vin Julia Child made famous. I have yet to make or even try this classic version (though I’d really love to one day), so I can’t really accurately compare it to this dish. I’m guessing this one isn’t near as good, but that’s what one gets for having “quick” in the title. It is really easy, though, and I think it’s one of those weeknight dishes that are worth the slight effort you put in. It follows the simple steps of rendering the fat of some bacon until the pieces become crisp, then sauteing chicken breast cutlets in the drippings. Within minutes the chicken is cooked, and you remove it temporarily to brown up sliced cremini mushrooms and shallots. The shallots are sliced through the root end, so hopefully they won’t all fall apart, but we do the best we can with that. Then a fair amount of wine and chicken stock gets added, and that bubbles away until it reduces a bit. At this point, you add in flour to thicken the sauce, nestle the chicken back in amongst the vegetables to warm it back up again and soak in some juices, and before you know it, you have quick, skillet coq au vin.
For how simple and straightforward it is, I loved it. Juicy chicken, delicious sauce and drippings, and all good, classic flavors. It’s one of those things that I’d like to credit myself with knowing how to make, being able to fall back on it when I need a dinner fast (considering I have red wine on hand). This time, I served it with a simple potato gratin, which I loved if only because I find pleasure when all the food on my plate matches up cuisine-wise, but it’d be nice to serve with something to soak up all those juices better—maybe mashed potatoes, crusty bread, or even rice.
One Year Ago: Best Banana Bread
Quick Skillet Coq au Vin
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, October 2010
4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved and trimmed to make 4 cutlets
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered
6 shallots, halved or quartered through the root end
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 heaping tablespoon all-purpose flour
fresh italian parlsey, chopped, to garnish (optional)
Saute bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and most of the fat has been rendered. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat left in the pan, if necessary. Meanwhile, pat the chicken cutlets dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add to the drippings in the skillet, and cook until cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
Add chopped mushrooms and shallots to the skillet, and sprinkle in a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, 1 cup of the broth, and the bacon into the skillet. Bring to a boil while scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Reduce slightly to a steady simmer, and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced by about maybe a third or so.
Meanwhile, add the remaining 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl with the heaping tablespoon of flour; stir until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the sauce and stir in. At this point you can nestle the chicken (as well as any juices they accumulated) back in the skillet between the shallots and mushrooms. Let the mixture settle and thicken for about 3 or 4 more minutes, until your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, sprinkling with parsley if you’d like.
PS: Also, I gave in—I got an iphone. No matter that I have strictly hated anything smart phone or that one of my favorite quotes is one by Max Frisch, saying “technology is the knack of so arranging the world so that we don’t have to experience it.” What can I say, it just kind of happened. I always end up giving in to everything I at first hate. (Besides Waylon. I always liked him from the beginning.) But, silver lining: I’m probably going to be more active on my twitter, now that I can post pictures of things easily. Just in case you’re interested.
I wouldn’t judge you if you took a look at that big sloppy mess of reddish-looking chicken piled on top of a piece of bread and thought in your head that no, this is not one of those recipes that I will be making any time soon. Let’s both be honest and admit that it’s not the prettiest thing to be posted in the food blog world. And even if it were pretty, we have to face the fact of what it is: chicken salad. Chicken salad, fancied up a little bit with some sort of Spanish twist (however contrived).
But really, when was the last time you made chicken salad, let alone ate it? The only chicken salad I had been familiar with–however theoretically that familiarity is–is the classic mayo-based salad filled with halved grapes and candied pecans. Not the most enticing thing I think, at least to me. I used to think chicken salad was a meal that just wasn’t in my cards.
Cook’s Illustrated started to change my mind about that when they set out to develop a series of chicken salad recipes that weren’t weighed down by mayonnaise but were instead fresher and lighter, with bolder flavors. One variation of chicken salad they ended up developing featured a roasted red pepper vinaigrette base. This, along with the fact that I had a 16-ounce jar of roasted red bell peppers in my cupboards just waiting to be used, was enough for me to enter what I had once considered the forbidden land of chicken salad.
(As a side note, yes I did use pre-roasted, jarred red bell peppers in this recipe. Even though bell peppers are in the height of their season right now. I needn’t express my guilt as a self-proclaimed food-loving and food-trend-following person. Because, to be honest with you, the ease factor outweighs any sort of guilt I feel. If you want, you can of course roast your own bell peppers. Instructions can be found here.)
So I made the chicken salad. And, lo and behold, I liked it. A lot. A lot of credit goes to the roasted red pepper vinaigrette itself—I have leftovers of it in a little jar in my fridge just waiting to be used on salads, or used as a dip for even more toast (still haven’t broken my toast habit). But I think I like it best with the chicken. Something about the acidity of the vinaigrette with the fattiness of the chicken. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which I think I prefer in the case of shredding it up to be eaten cold as a salad. But you may of course use white chicken breasts, if you’d like. Besides that, the other little goodies in the salad–more diced roasted red bell peppers, green olives, and sliced almonds–round out the chicken salad part of the meal. Because, after all, what would a cold chicken salad be without some token crunchy and tasty add-ins?
I am now somewhat pleased to say I might be a chicken-salad convert. I have dreams of packaging it up for a picnic where it’d be piled on top of bread and eaten in the sun. This of course is probably not ever going to happen, but you know, a girl can hope. Still, I consider it a win to be able to sit down for dinner and eat some cold chicken salad and for it to be actually pretty enjoyable. I’m even tempted to press my luck and try out some other chicken salad recipes. The Thai-style variation with a spicy peanut dressing offered by Cook’s Illustrated is particularly calling my name. If I ever get so bold to continue on and try that, I’ll let you know.
One Year Ago: Sweet and Spicy African Peanut Soup
Spanish-Style Chicken Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 4 to 6
I poached the chicken for the salad, just because I thought it was the easiest way to ensure tender and juicy chicken. You may, of course, cook your chicken any way you’d like, though. Or just get a store-bought rotisserie chicken, as the original recipe suggests.
Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 ounces (about 200 grams) roasted red bell peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1 big clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 medium ribs celery, sliced very thin (about 1 cup)
5 ounces (200 grams) roasted red bell peppers, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup chopped green olives
small handful of parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
First, make the vinaigrette. Puree oil, 2/3 cup roasted red bell peppers, garlic, salt and a few big pinches worth of fresh ground pepper in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid; set aside.
To prepare and cook the chicken, fill a deep 12-inch skillet with water until the water level reaches about 2/3 the way up in the pan. While you’re at it, throw in a good 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt in the water to flavor it. Bring water to a steady simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, carefully place the chicken in the liquid so that it’s fully submerged and allow to poach, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through. This will depend on the cut and size of meat you have, but for chicken breasts this should take between 15 to 20 minutes, and around 12 or so minutes for chicken thighs. Remove from broth and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat into pieces about 2-inches long (discarding any fat or sinewy pieces if necessary). You should have about 5 cups of shredded chicken, more or less. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the shallot, celery, 2/3 cup of red bell pepper, green olives and parsley to the chicken; loosely stir to combine. Add about half the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Depending on how much chicken you have, you may want to add more or less vinaigrette. I’d just keep adding the vinaigrette in tablespoons until the chicken is dressed enough to your liking. Taste for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with almonds, and serve.