Category Archives: Chicken

Fabulous Summer Salads

So.  Summer.summer salads

It’s hot out there; who wants to cook?  Not me.  So what I worked on this week are summer salads.

Ho hum, right?  Potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni salad?  Same old same old.

Not this guy.

I came up with two wonderful new recipes inspired by other, pre-existing recipes and worked them over into wonderful new dishes with my (and Ellen’s) personal twists to make a balmy  summer evening absolutely sing with new flavors.

Standard ingredients, new applications.  Here’s what we’ve got.

Among the things upon which Ellen and I agree is that we don’t much like creamy potato salads; you know the ones–potatoes, celery, mayonnaise, salt and pepper–not much about which to get excited.

Enter Eating Well magazine.  Eating well is something I excel at, although “well” is a bit of a stretch. The magazine means healthy; to me, “eating well” generally means enjoying what we’ve made to the extreme.  In this case, I’ll stick to (relatively) healthy–no mayo in this potato salad, just a beautious blend of herbs and spices that make a summer day feel like a celebration.  This month’s issue of Eating Well features a choice of potato salads that are different from the norm almost as much as they are different from each other.

Our choice from this page was a luscious Greek potato salad with (or, in our case, without) beautiful Kalamata olives (Ellen doesn’t like olives, so we left them out, but I love them, so I say “put ’em in!”   Here’s the plan:

The second recipe is a variation on a Mexican bean salad, with a tangy cumin/lime dressing that is similar to one that has long been one of our favorites.  It’s like a bean salad I wrote about a couple of years ago, but with a twist in the dressing.  The dressing started with the Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, but I’ve worked it over to my liking, and I sure do like it.  Better, although the original is delicious.

I think you’ll like both recipes.  We served them with grilled chicken and freshly torn romaine lettuce and the same dressing as in the beans.  Fabulous!

Greek Potato Salad

Ingredients:

2½ pounds red or Yukon Gold potatoes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup reduced-fat Feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup Kalamata olives, quartered (optional!  — NOT!)

1 medium cucumber, seeded and quartered and diced

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup finely chopped shallot

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Scrub and dice the potatoes to a ½-inch dice and place on a steamer basket above one inch of water in a large pot; steam until tender, 12-15 minutes. Place the potato dice on a baking sheet, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and let cool for 15 minutes.  Then gently place them in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl,  whisk together olive oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, and salt and pepper.  Add the tomatoes, Feta, olives (or not ;), cucumber, and oregano to the potatoes, then drizzle the dressing into the bowl. Toss gently, so as not to break up the potatoes, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place the bowl in the fridge for at least two hours, then serve.

Mexican Black Bean and Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

2 cans black beans, rinsed well

4 fresh San Marzano (or Roma) plum tomatoes, ½-inch dice

1 orange (or yellow) bell pepper, seeded and pith removed, ½-inch dice

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained

½ red onion, diced

1 10-oz package of frozen corn, thawed, rinsed, and drained

¼ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (more if you like your salads tangy!)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon finely ground white pepper

Preparation:

Place the first seven ingredients (beans through cilantro) in a large bowl.  In a separate, smaller bowl, add the zest, juice, cumin, chipotle pepper, salt, and white pepper, and stir to mix well.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing bowl whisking constantly to create a mixed dressing that thickens as you add the oil.  Pour over the salad ingredients and toss to coat the salad well.  Serve immediately to get all the flavor from the tomatoes and cilantro, or chill for later serving.

Both these recipes are tasty and reasonably healthy, and go well with anything grilled.  Try ‘em both!

Where’s the Beef Beef Stew

I’m officially embarrassed.astew

I’m preparing to cook dinner tonight for my in-laws, and my beloved is out of town, spending a frighteningly well-deserved weekend at the beach with her best friend, knitting and bird watching and beach walking, and ice-cream eating (and heaven only knows what else), and I’m planning to make a recipe from my mother-in-law’s recipe box, a recipe I’ve made dozens of times; it’s maybe my favorite recipe from my wife’s recipe box

So, because I love the recipe so much, I wrote about it in my column a couple of years back, then went looking for the recipe on this site, because the recipe card is worn to the point of not being so readable.

And so, I discovered that this recipe, perhaps one of my all-time favorites, is nowhere to be found on this site. One can Google it, one can search  for it in the newspaper’s archives, or one could come over here and try to decipher the recipe card.

Or one could read it right now. Here. Where it ought to be.

This is beef stew.  Simple, straightforward, and oh, so yummy, that it is likely to become your go-to beef stew recipe of all times.

But because we don’t eat red meat around here any more, I’ve adapted the recipe to our own liking, using chicken thighs instead of beef. Weird, huh?   Okay, let’s call it chicken-thigh stew.  But it’s so hearty that you’ll think of it as beef stew with a difference.

So what I’m going to do here is to re-publish the column I wrote for the paper, and let you see the whole reconstruction plan.  If you want the real beef stew recipe, read through the column to the end, or skip to the bottom for the original.  Either way, it’s a winner.

From the Lancaster Sunday News

A Family Favorite Gets Reimagined, Renamed

Posted: Sunday, January 9, 2011 12:06 am | Updated: 11:59 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

It’s just a little tin box. You probably have one in your kitchen.

But oh, the treasures inside.

The box, adorned with homey images from a simpler time, is stuffed full of 3×5 index cards that Ellen got from her mother. On these cards – faded with age, occasionally smudged with gravy, handwriting made gauzy by the heat and humidity of a working kitchen – is a treasury of recipes collected over decades from friends and family and handed down from generation to generation.

The box contains an amazing range of tastes – from “Adele’s Cereal” to “Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole,” to “Porcupine Meat Balls” to “Zucchini Chocolate Cake”. Many of the recipes are from that simpler time, when “fat” was what “healthy” babies were, and when the family cook had most of the day to plan and execute the evening meal, including a loaf of fresh-baked bread.

That’s why this particular recipe caught my eye, and eventually my fancy. It reminded me of meals from my childhood. It was called “Marge Mason Stew.” My mother-in-law’s neighbor many years ago, Marge had created the perfect beef stew recipe – comfort-food good, and very simple. But more to the point, it can be adapted to almost any taste, including for folks who don’t eat red meat, like my family. Having made, and played with, the recipe dozens of times, I now use turkey or chicken thigh meat as a replacement for fatty beef cubes. This produces a stew that is almost identical in flavor and texture to beef stew, lower in fat and totally satisfying. And in a busy world, this recipe is perfect for a slow cooker.

But since this is now turkey stew, and I’ve added a couple of ingredients Marge didn’t have in her original recipe, I can no longer, in good faith, call it “Marge Mason Stew.” Now we call it …

MARGE SIMPSON STEW

1 1/2 pounds boneless turkey thigh meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 cup red wine

1/3 cup ketchup

1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Reduce vegetable broth in a saucepan until only 1 cup remains.

Place the flour, salt, pepper and ginger in a large food-storage bag, shake well, then add half the turkey cubes to the bag. Close the bag, and shake well until the turkey cubes are coated with the flour mixture. Place the flour-coated cubes into the pot and stir until they are fully browned and firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat cubes to a bowl.

Repeat with the remaining meat, adding more oil if necessary.

Return the original batch to the pot, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Then add the broth, and 1/2 cup of wine, bring to a boil, and stir to deglaze the pot. Then add the herbs and ketchup. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and remaining wine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for an additional hour, adding the peas in the last 15 minutes. Serve when the potatoes are tender.

To make this stew in a slow cooker, brown the meat in a heavy pan, deglaze the pan with the wine, place the meat and the glaze in the crock, cover with the remaining ingredients, and cook on the low setting for 8 hours.

Also, double the recipe. It gets better in the fridge.

Marge Mason Stew

Ingredients:aHeartyBeefStew

1 pound stew beef (beef tips are best)

4 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 can beef consomme

2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, dried thyme, paprika

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrots

4 baby red potatoes, quartered

3/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/3 cup ketchup

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cut meat into 1/2-inch cubes. Prepare a large plastic bag with flour, salt, pepper, ginger. Place half the meat in the bag, toss to coat, and brown in batches in a large, heavy-bottom stew pot to sear. Remove from the pot, repeat with the remaining meat, and set aside

Add the consomme and garlic to the pot and simmer, stirring to remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  Then add 1/2 cup wine, herbs, tomato paste,  and ketchup, and stir well to mix.  Simmer for 1.5 hours.  Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and the remaining wine. Taste and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another hour.

Serve immediately.

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this “Ellen’s Favorite Soup,” because there are an awful lot of soups that she likes.peanut soup But let’s just say this, and let the evidence stand for itself: She made a batch of this soup a few weeks ago, and I had a second bowl for dinner, leaving none for leftovers the following day. She was really steamed. She doesn’t get steamed very often, and even when she does, she rarely shows it. But leaving her no Thai chicken soup? I certainly won’t let THAT happen again.

So what is this liquid gold that gets her gussie all bundled up in a batch? The ingredient list alone is enough to make a foodie swoon: red curry paste, peanut butter, coconut milk, fresh ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce. Wow! My taste buds are shifting into overdrive even as I type this. It’s a darn good thing that there’s a batch on the kitchen counter as we speak. Smells fabulous. Mix those ingredients together with the rest of the list, and you have a dish made for the Gods.

Well, the gods of Thailand, anyway.

And to boot, because it’s a slow-cooker thing, the whole pot can be thrown together in just minutes, you can leave the house for the day, and come home to the dancing fragrance of this wonderful batch of creaminess filling the kitchen with the aromas of Southeast Asia.

That’s a good thing.

So here’s the scoop on this scoopable:

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 12-ounce cans coconut milk

2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼” slices

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Cilantro for garnish

Chopped peanuts for garnish

2 cups cooked white rice

Preparation:

  1. Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a 4-6-quart slow-cooker bowl. Place the chicken breast, onion, red bell pepper in the crock, cover and cook for 4 hours on high or seven hours on low.
  1. Add the peas and cook for ½ hour longer. Stir in the lime juice, serve in heavy bowls garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and peanuts and a bowl of white rice. The rice can be added to the soup at the table. Or not.

Israeli Couscous with Lemon, Cucumber, and Cilantro

I didn’t know what to make for supper, and I had only a half hour before it had to be ready. Couscous SaladLife on the run, you know. I work, E works, L is at the theater all day, M is either swimming, hockeying, iPhoning, entertaining, being entertained—it’s all just overwhelming, and making dinner becomes a chore.

But you know that.

You deal with the same issues, or similar ones, just the names and the names of the activities are different.

And we just can’t bring ourselves to open a box or a can or face another plate of ho-hum chicken breasts. Sure we like to cook ahead, and we have on several occasions, most recently a couple of Sundays ago, when we whipped up bowls full of chicken Marsala, baked ziti, salmon cakes, a couple of meat loafs, and E’s most popular white-bean and turkey-sausage stew.

It’s 4:45, all the make-ahead packages are frozen solid, there’s one chicken breast in the fridge (left over from another recipe), and the pressure is on.

What’s in the cupboard?

What I found was a box of Trader Joe’s Israeli couscous, a carton of plain yogurt and lots of produce in the fridge, and the clock is ticking. I’m feeling a little bit like Ted Allen is hiding around the corner.

I’m likely to fail. Chopped.

I looked for and found a recipe for a cold couscous salad that looked promising, but it surely needed a jolt of pizzazz, and then I found a small container of grilled chicken souvlaki I made a while back—that will defrost in a hurry. I can pull this off?

The feature for me will be the couscous salad, because I can spice it up and make it sing. So here’s what I made:

 

Israeli Couscous Salad with Cucumber, Lemon and Cilantro

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 ½ cups Israeli Couscous

1 ½ cups boiling water

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 medium lemon

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white Balsamic or cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

12 grape tomatoes, halved

 

Preparation:

1. Preheat a saucepan over medium heat with 1 teaspoon olive oil; when the oil is hot add the couscous and toast, stirring constantly, until it is lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Carefully add the boiling water, reduce the heat to low, cover and steam for 12 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Cut the seeded cucumber into quarters and then into ½-inch slices; place in a large bowl. Add the cilantro and parsley. With a fine-hole grater, zest the lemon peel into the cucumber. Set aside.

3. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a small bowl, add the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine the dressing and add it to the cucumber. Toss to coat well.

4. Add the cooled couscous, the feta, and the tomatoes, and toss gently to combine the ingredients. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately or chill until ready to eat.

 

You can substitute mint, all parsley, or all cilantro to the salad as you wish.

Serve with chicken or lamb souvlaki. Here’s the recipe for that: Feel free to substitute lamb for the chicken, and try the tzatziki, too. It’s the bomb!

 

Souvlaki (Lamb or Chicken)

Ingredients:

½ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

2 lemons, juiced

2 pounds lamb shoulder meat, trimmed of most (but not all) the fat, cut into 1-inch cubes

                        or

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (similarly prepared)

 

Preparation:

Place all the ingredients in a zipper-close food-storage bag, mix well, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, and preferably overnight.  Place the meat on soaked wood or steel skewers, and grill over direct heat, turning several times, until done, 15-20 minutes.

Serve over rice or couscous, and with this fabulous yogurt dipping sauce:

 

Greek Tzatziki

Ingredients:

32 ounces plain yogurt or 16 ounces plain Greek yogurt

1 large peeled, seeded and shredded English cucumber (or two regular ones)

5-8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (you decide how many)

3 tablespoons white vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

 

Preparation:

Place the plain yogurt in cheese cloth over a large bowl and strain in the refrigerator overnight (not necessary if you use Greek yogurt, but use half the amount of yogurt).  Mix the cucumber and garlic with the salt and drain over a bowl for a half hour (this will remove moisture from the cucumber).  Blend all the ingredients well in a large bowl.

Serve with the grilled souvlaki and a Greek salad.

Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary

I recently finished reading a wonderful book, one I recommend for anyone and everyone who cooks, thinks they can cook, wants to cook, wants to learn how to cook, or just enjoys eating.  As far as I can tell, that includes provencemost everyone–certainly most everyone who reads my columns or my blogs.  The book is titled Provence, 1970:  M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and The Reinvention of American Taste, and it catalogs that summer, when the named principals and others of the gourmet industry glitterati of the time all found themselves in the Provence region of France at the same time.  The book is abstracted from the daily journal of Ms. Fisher, one of the most most respected food writers in the world at the moment.  It describes literally the moment when gourmet American cuisine stood up and broke free of the traditions and disciplines of classical French cooking and took its place as a separate and exciting style of cooking and life.

I’m not particularly a huge fan of traditional French cooking; I find it fussy and regimented, and I prefer to experiment with ingredients that I like–to mix and match flavors to see what the outcome might be.  I’m not always successful, but I pride myself on technique and on my ability to repeat a recipe exactly time and time again if I find one I like.  I’m also adept at duplicating a recipe I’ve tasted elsewhere and identify the flavors within. That’s not a skill I was able to hone; it is a particular and peculiar talent I was born with, so all the credit for this ability rests with my mother, who patiently explained every thing she was doing in the kitchen as she proceeded through a recipe.  I then learned the rest of my cooking from my mentor, Martin Bettonio, executive chef at my family’s Epicure Gourmet Market in Miami Beach, after a stellar career as the executive chef at The Fontainbleau hotel, also in Miami Beach.

That said, following a reading of Provence, 1970, and at the request of my beloved life partner, Ellen, I decided to make a supper dish on a Sunday evening that reflected the influences of French cooking on American cuisine and took advantage of my strengths as a cook.

And thus was born my most recent personal dish creation, the butterflied grilled chicken with lemon and rosemary.  It is a model of simplicity, using only a few carefully selected ingredients. It takes advantage of the wonderful bounty of local products–the chicken is fresh from a local farm courtesy of Stoltzfus Poultry at Central Market, fresh rosemary from our very own garden, and an amazing rosemary-infused extra-virgin olive oil obtained from my new friends at Seasons Lancaster on the first block of West King Street, a wonderful new source of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, chutneys, and other condiments most interesting.

But this recipe starts with the chicken.  Fresh and not so large as the hormone-laden grocery-store poultry, just over four pounds and beautifully pale–no evidence of marigold petals in Stoltzfus chickens.  First I butterfly the chicken, which is my preferred way to cook a chicken on a grill; it makes for more even cooking and a greatly reduced cooking time.  To butterfly a chicken, take a sturdy chef’s knife in one hand and the chicken in the other. Stand the bird up straight, resting on its wings and neck cavity. Place the tip of the knife firmly on the chicken just aside the tail piece (an Irish friend of mine used to call this “the Pope’s nose).  Holding the chicken firmly upright, quickly run the knife down alongside the backbone, all the way to the cutting board. Turn the chicken and repeat on the other side of the backbone.  Tear the whole backbone away from the chicken and set it aside.  Lay the chicken on the cutting board, breast side down, and run the tip of the knife the length of the breastbone and the breast cartilage to sever the skin layer. Pick the chicken up and quickly and firmly fold it like a book bringing the outsides of the breast together, inside out, breaking the rib bones away from the breast bone. Then firmly pull the breastbone away from the chicken–both the bone and cartilage pieces.  Salt and pepper the inside, flip the chicken to breast side up and lay it on the cutting board. Cut away the wing tips and set them aside with the backbone.  Your chicken is now ready.

Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemarychicken

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, 4 to 4.5 pounds, butterflied

1 whole lemon, sliced very thin

1 whole shallot, minced fine

2 whole sprigs fresh rosemary

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Koshersalt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Place the minced shallot in the olive oil in a small bowl and allow to sit while doing the rest of the preparation.

Butterfly the chicken as described above.  Preheat the outdoor grill of your choice to 350 degrees F., so that the chicken can be placed on the grates away from direct flame.

Run hands and/or fingers between the chicken meat and the skin, including the thigh and leg, if possible, to separate the skin from the meat. Rub minced shallot and olive oil over the whole chicken under the skin. Then place three slices of lemon and a whole sprig of rosemary under the skin on each side of the breast. Rub the remaining olive oil over the chicken skin and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, breast side down, on the grill away from the flame, and close the top.  Grill 14-16 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, flip and grill 15 minutes more.  The chicken is done when the juices from the thigh run clear when pierced with a knife.  Remove the chicken from the grill, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Garnish with a lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary.

 

Vegetable Lo Mein

I was in the Asian market today picking up fresh sprouts for a batch of pad Thai I plan to make for supper tonight, and another customer in the store asked the clerk if anyone in the market had a recipe for lo mein.  When no one in the market could give her an idea of how to go about it, I offered to help her out.  Not my favorite dish, although I do love a good plate of vegetarian lo Mein, here is a simple recipe for the noodle dish for beginners.  There are certainly other, more complex recipes, and had I time (today is “Free Rita’s Day” here in Lancaster), I’d produce a recipe with much more complex flavor, but most neighborhood restaurants don’t go for complex, they go for fast and tasty.  Here is one I got from a neighborhood restaurant in Alexandria, VA, when I lived in the Rosemont neighborhood.  If you don’t know Rosemont, you haven’t lived.  This is a wonderful, simple dish made with vegetables.  It can be augmented with chicken, Chinese roast pork, shrimp, or tofu, and will taste even better.

This recipe comes from Grace Young’s The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen:  Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing.  In the book, Grace says:  “Vegetable Lo Mein is one the easiest dishes for a beginner to make. The mastery comes in correctly slicing the vegetables and not overcooking the noodles. You will find a variety of fresh egg noodles in the refrigerator section of most Chinese food markets. The best noodles for lo mein are about 1/4 inch thick, and come either uncooked or precooked. Either noodle can be used and will require one to three minutes of boiling, follow package directions.”

Vegetable Lo MeinVegetableLoMein

Ingredients:

1-pound package Chinese narrow, flat egg noodles (resembling linguine)

6 dried Shitake mushrooms

1 small can Chinese straw mushrooms

1 medium onion, halved and sliced in half-moon rings 1/4-inch thick

2 stalks celery, one-inch slices, sliced diagonally

1 broccoli crown, florets separated

6 Napa cabbage leaves

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons  soy sauce

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon finely minced ginger

1 cup julienne carrots

2 scallions, finely shredded

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

Optional:  1 chicken breast, trimmed of fat, cut in half lengthwise then sliced crossways into small strips; or 24  31- to 36-count (medium) shrimp, peeled and deveined; or 1/2 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed dry, marinated 1/2 hour in 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon sesame-seed oil; or 1/2 pound Asian-roasted BBQ pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Preparation:

In a medium bowl, soak the Shitake mushrooms in 1/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving soaking liquid. Cut off and discard stems and thinly slice the caps.

Wash the cabbage leaves in several changes of cold water and allow to thoroughly drain in a colander until dry to touch. Trim 1/4 inch from the stem end of the cabbage leaves and discard. Stack 2 to 3 cabbage leaves at a time and crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide shreds.

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add noodles , return to a rolling boil, and boil 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain the noodles thoroughly. Transfer to a medium bowl, add sesame oil and 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and mix well. Set aside.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch flat skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil and ginger, and stir-fry 20 seconds. Add the onions, celery, carrots, scallions, and mushrooms, and stir-fry 1 minute, or until vegetables are just limp. Transfer vegetables to a plate.

Add 1/4 cup water and broccoli; cover and steam 3 minutes, then drain and place on the plate with the other vegetables.

[Add protein ingredients here if you choose–see note*]

Add the remaining  2 tablespoons vegetable oil and cabbage, and stir-fry 1 minute, or until cabbage begins to wilt. And the cooked carrot mixture, noodles, and reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes, or until noodles are heated through. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and oyster sauce and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

* Note:  If you choose to add protein ingredients such as chicken, shrimp, tofu, or pork, stir-fry them until just barely done after stir-frying the vegetables but before the cabbage.  Set aside on a warm plate.  Then resume the recipe with with the cabbage and continue until hot and well mixed.  If you add protein ingredients, double the oyster sauce and increase the soy sauce by 1 tablespoon.

Pho Bo (Beef Pho) and Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

Please permit me to introduce you to Andrea Nguyen.

Andrea is the maven of an incredible website that is full of the culture and recipes of Viet Nam, www.vietworldkitchen.com.  It is there that I found two recipes that are to become staples of my kitchen, Chicken Pho and beef Pho, the rich and tasty dinner soups that are central to the culture of Viet Nam, and have found their way into the lore of American cuisine by way of the many immigrants from South Viet Nam who have found their way to America.  Local to us here in Lancaster is the incredible Rice & Noodles restaurant in Manheim Township, an addition to our culinary life that is among the most welcome I have seen in my years in Central Pennsylvania. Vy and her family moved here after the disastrous hurricane Katrina decimated their home and business in New Orleans, and they are a most pleasurable addition to our wonderfully diverse life here in Lancaster County.  Vy’s Pho soups are a joy to behold, and while I love dropping in to grab a potful and bringing it home, I wanted to find a way to make it myself.

Enter Andrea Nguyen.

She has produced a fabulous collection of her own family recipes into an incredible cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, which I have purchased as a NookBook and downloaded onto my Nook and my kitchen computer, my beautiful HP Touchsmart PC,hp_touchsmart_600_02 which has become the most invaluable kitchen accessory I own (and which my better half–who was skeptical when I insisted that it had to be in our remodeled kitchen–now considers it vital to the welfare of our family).

But I digress…

Andrea Nguyen has enlightened me to the ways of Vietnamese Pho, and I am now a changed man.  The stock used to make this legendary meal is the stuff of magical qualities, and I think that I will forever keep frozen containers of it, ready to use whenever the mood comes upon me–just add noodles and protein!

Here I will introduce you to the magic of two varieties of Pho, Ga (chicken) and Bo (beef), which hopefully transform your life as they have mine.

Pho Bobeef pho

For the broth:
2 medium yellow onions (about 1 pound total)
4-inch piece ginger (about 4 ounces)
5-6 pounds beef soup bones, marrow and knuckle bones (get them at Central Market if you can’t find them at the grocery store)
5 star anise (40 star points total)
6 whole cloves
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 pound piece of beef chuck, rump, brisket or cross rib roast, cut into 2-by-4-inch pieces (weight after trimming)
1  1/2 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar (duong phen; get this at the Asian market on Liberty Street or the one near McCaskey High School)

For the bowls:
1  1/2-2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh banh pho noodles
1/2 pound raw eye of round, sirloin, London broil or tri-tip steak, thinly sliced across the grain (1/16 inch thick; freeze for 15 minutes to make it easier to slice)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, left to soak for 30 minutes in a bowl of cold water
3 or 4 scallions, green part only, cut into thin rings
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Ground black pepper

Optional garnishes arranged on a plate and placed at the table: 
Sprigs of spearmint  and Asian/Thai basil
Leaves of thorny cilantro (ngo gai–also available at most good Asian markets)
Bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
Red hot chiles (such as Thai bird or dragon), thinly sliced
Lime wedges

Prepare the Pho broth:

PhoonionChar onion and ginger. Use an open flame on grill or gas stove. Place onions and ginger on cooking grate and let skin burn. (If using stove, turn on exhaust fan and open a window.) After about 15 minutes, they will soften and become sweetly fragrant. Use tongs to occasionally rotate them and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin. You do not have to blacken entire surface, just enough to slightly cook onion and ginger.

Phopeeled_onion_and_ginger_for_br_2Let cool. Under warm water, remove charred onion skin; trim and discard blackened parts of root or stem ends. If ginger skin is puckered and blistered, smash ginger with flat side of knife to loosen flesh from skin. Otherwise, use sharp paring knife to remove skin, running ginger under warm water to wash off blackened bits. Set aside.

Parboil bones. Place bones in stockpot (minimum 12-quart capacity) and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to boil. Boil vigorously 2 to 3 minutes to allow impurities to be released. Dump bones and water into sink and rinse bones with warm water. Quickly scrub stockpot to remove any residue. Return bones to pot.

Simmer broth. Add 6 quarts water to pot, bring to boil over high heat, then lower flame to gently simmer. Use ladle to skim any scum that rises to surface. Add remaining broth ingredients and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Boneless meat should be slightly chewy but not tough. When it is cooked to your liking, remove it and place in bowl of cold water for 10 minutes; this prevents the meat from drying up and turning dark as it cools. Drain the meat; cool, then refrigerate. Allow broth to continue cooking; in total, the broth should simmer 3 hours.

Strain the broth through fine strainer. If desired, remove any bits of gelatinous tendon from bones to add to your pho bowl. Store tendon with cooked beef. Discard solids.

Skim as much fat from top of the broth as you like. (Cool it and refrigerate it overnight to make this task easier; reheat before continuing.) Taste and adjust flavor with additional salt, fish sauce and yellow rock sugar. The broth should taste slightly too strong because the noodles and other ingredients are not salted. (If you’ve gone too far, add water to dilute.) Makes about 4 quarts.

Assemble pho bowls:

The key is to be organized and have everything ready to go. Thinly slice cooked meat. For best results, make sure it’s cold.

Heat the broth and ready the noodles.  Reheat the broth over medium flame as you’re assembling bowls. If you’re using dried noodles, cover with hot tap water and soak 15-20 minutes, until softened and opaque white. Drain in colander. For fresh rice noodles, just untangle and briefly rinse in a colander with cold water.

Blanch noodles. Fill 3- or 4-quart saucepan with water and bring to boil. For each bowl, use long-handle strainer to blanch a portion of noodles. As soon as noodles have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10-20 seconds), pull strainer from water, letting water drain back into saucepan. Empty noodles into bowls. Noodles should occupy 1/4 to 1/3 of bowl.  I prefer fewer noodles, because I want more broth!  Then blanch bean sprouts for 30 seconds in same saucepan. They should slightly wilt but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnish plate.

Add other ingredients. Place slices of cooked meat, raw meat and tendon (if using) atop noodles. (If your cooked meat is not at room temperature, blanch slices for few seconds in hot water from above.) Garnish with onion, scallion and chopped cilantro. Finish with black pepper.

Ladle in broth and serve. Bring broth to rolling boil. Check seasoning. Ladle broth into each bowl, distributing hot liquid evenly so as to cook raw beef and warm other ingredients. Serve your Pho with with the garnish plate.

Note: Yellow rock sugar (a.k.a. lump sugar) is sold in one-pound boxes at Chinese and Southeast Asian markets. Break up large chunks with hammer.

Variations: If you want to replicate the splendorous options available at Pho shops, head to the butcher counter at a Vietnamese or Chinese market. There you’ll find white cords of gan(beef tendon) and thin pieces of nam (outside flank, not flank steak). While tendon requires no preparation prior to cooking, nam should be rolled and tied with string for easy handling. Simmer it and the beef tendon in the cooking broth for two hours, or until chewy-tender.

You can also make Pho with beef meatballs (bo vien), which you can purchase in Asian markets in the refrigerator case; they are already precooked. Slice each one in half and drop into broth to heat through. When you’re ready to serve, ladle them out with the broth to top each bowl.

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Broth
2 yellow onions, about 1 pound total, unpeeled
Chubby 4-inch section fresh ginger, unpeeled
1 chicken, 4 pounds, excess fat and tail removed
3 pounds chicken backs, necks, or other bony chicken parts
5 quarts water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1-inch chunk yellow rock sugar (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted in a dry skillet for about 1 minute until fragrant
4 whole cloves
1 small or 1/2 large bunch cilantro (bound stems about 1 inch in diameter)

Bowls
1 1/2–2 pounds small flat rice noodles, dried or fresh
Cooked chicken, at room temperature
1 yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained
3 or 4 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only
Black pepper

Optional garnishes
3 cups bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
10 to 12 sprigs mint, 10 to 12 sprigs Thai basil
12 to 15 fresh cilantro leaves
2 or 3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 or 3 limes, cut into wedges

Make the pho broth
Phoonion 1. Place the onions and ginger directly on the cooking grate of a medium-hot charcoal or gas grill (as pictured, to the right) or a gas stove with a medium flame, or on a medium-hot burner of an electric stove. Let the skin burn (if you’re working indoors, turn on the exhaust fan and open a window), using tongs to rotate onion and ginger occasionally and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin.

After 15 minutes, the onions and ginger will have softened slightly and become sweetly fragrant. There may even be some bubbling. You do not have to blacken the entire surface. When amply charred, remove from the heat and let cool.

Phopeeled_onion_and_ginger_for_br_22. Rinse the cooled onions under warm running water, rubbing off the charred skin. Trim off and discard the blackened root and stem ends. Use a vegetable peeler, paring knife, or the edge of a teaspoon to remove the ginger skin. Hold it under warm water to wash off any blackened bits. Halve the ginger lengthwise and bruise lightly with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife.  Set the onions and ginger aside.

3. Rinse the chicken under cool water. Detach each wing by bending it back and cutting it off at the shoulder joint. Add the wings and neck, and set the wingless chicken aside.

4. Remove and discard any loose pieces of fat from the chicken parts. With a large chef’s knife or heavy cleaver designed for chopping bones, chop the bones to break them partway or all the way through, making the cuts at 1- to 2-inch intervals, depending on the size of the part. This exposes the marrow, which enriches the broth.

5. To achieve a clear broth, you must first parboil and rinse the chicken parts. Put them in a stockpot (about 12-quart capacity) and add cold water just to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes to release the impurities. Dump the chicken parts and water into the sink (make sure it is clean), and then rinse the parts with water to wash off any clinging residue. Quickly scrub the stockpot clean and return the chicken parts to the pot. Put the chicken into the pot, breast side up.

6.  Add water to cover the chicken.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Skim off any scum that rises to the top. Add the onions, ginger, salt, fish sauce, rock sugar, coriander seeds, cloves, and cilantro and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes, adjusting the heat if needed to maintain a gentle simmer.

At this point, the chicken is cooked; its flesh should feel firm yet still yield a bit to the touch. With a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Flush with cold water and drain well, then it set aside for 15 to 20 minutes until it is cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, keep the broth at a steady simmer.

7. When chicken can be handled, use a knife to remove each breast half and the whole legs (thigh and drumstick). Don’t cut these pieces further, or they’ll lose their succulence. Set aside on a plate to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before assembling the bowls.

8. Return the leftover carcass to the stockpot and adjust the heat to simmer the broth gently for another 1 1/2 hours. Avoid a hard boil, or the broth will turn cloudy.

9. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve (or a coarse-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth) positioned over a pot. Discard the solids. Use a ladle to skim as much fat from the top of the broth as you like. (To make this task easier, you can cool the broth, refrigerate overnight, lift off the solidified fat, and then reheat before continuing.) Taste and adjust the flavor with additional salt, fish sauce, and rock sugar. There should be about 4 quarts of broth.  At this point, you can freeze the broth.

Assemble the pho bowls
10. If using dried noodles, cover them with hot tap water and let soak for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are pliable and opaque. Drain in a colander. If using fresh rice noodles, untangle them, place in a colander, and rinse briefly under cold running water.

11. Cut the cooked chicken into slices about 1/4 inch thick, cutting the meat off the bone as necessary. If you don’t want to eat the skin, discard it first. Set the chicken aside. Ready the yellow onion, scallions, cilantro, and pepper for adding to the bowls. Arrange the garnishes on a plate and put on the table.

12. To ensure good timing, bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat as you are assembling the bowls. (For an extra treat, drop in any unused white scallion sections and let them poach in the broth. Add the poached white scallion sections (called hành chần) to a few lucky bowls when ladling out the broth.) At the same time, fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil.

For each bowl, place a portion of the noodles on a vertical-handle strainer (or mesh sieve) and dunk the noodles in the boiling water. As soon as they have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10 to 20 seconds), pull the strainer from the water, letting the water drain back into the pot. Empty the noodles into a bowl. If you like, once you have finished blanching the noodles, you can blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds. They should wilt slightly but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnishes.

13. Top each bowl of noodles with chicken, arranging the slices flat. Place a mound of yellow onion in the center and then sprinkle scallion and cilantro on top. Finish with a sprinkle of pepper.

14. Raise the heat and bring the broth to a rolling boil. Do a final tasting and make any last-minute flavor adjustments. Ladle about 2 cups broth into each bowl, distributing the hot liquid evenly to warm all the ingredients. Serve immediately with the garnishes.

Thai Basil Chicken

I can’t say enough about how simple and delicious this recipe is.  And fun, too. lettuce wraps Made this last week and put it in the freezer, to be taken out on a night when all hell has broken loose and we needed something quick.  Suffice it to say, it was a hit, not only for the rich flavor, but for the fun of eating the supper on one plate, like a wrap.  The recipe calls for ground chicken, but you could use ground turkey or pieces of chicken thigh or breast, or almost any poultry you find on sale–we always find good inexpensive ground turkey at our local Giant market, and this dish can be made up in minutes.  You need to try it out, and serve the result wrapped in green-leaf lettuce leaves like a wrap.  It’s a hoot.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 red bell pepper, veins removed, cut in thin julienne strips
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, packed
  • 4-7 minced Thai chili peppers
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted dark sesame seed oil
  • green-leaf lettuce leaves, washed, dried, split in half down the  center stem and stem removed

Mince garlic and chili pepper together. Clean and pick the basil leaves from their stems. It may appear like a lot of leaves, but the leaves will shrink when cooked and this dish’s flavor comes from the leaves.

Fry the garlic and chili peppers in oil over high heat. When garlic starts to turn brown, add the ground chicken. Stir constantly. The juice will start to come out. Keep stirring until all the juice is gone, 2-3 minutes.  Add the bell pepper strips and stir fry two minutes. Add the fish sauce, then the basil leaves.  Quickly turn it over a few times to mix the basil leaves with the meat and wilt them slightly.  Remove from the heat, add the sesame oil and toss to mix.   Serve with cleaned green leaf lettuce leaves to wrap, or with hot steamed rice.

Skinny Buffalo-Style Hot (or not so hot) Chicken Wings

Super Bowl day!

So I just know that you all have been waiting breathlessly to see what I might cook up for a Super Bowl party.  Or not.

It’s tough coming up with wonderful finger-food dishes when you’ re in the process of losing a lot of weight (I’m at 33 and counting).

On the other hand, a Super Bowl just isn’t a Super Bowl without chicken wings, and so I just had to make my own.
First off, I skip the butter.  I’m not quite sure why butter is necessary in chicken wings, but the place that originated the treat, the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York–Buffalo wings are called Buffalo wings because they were originated in Buffalo; you didn’t think they had anything do do with buffaloes, did you?  Duh!  Buffaloes don’t have wings!!)–used butter in the recipe, so butter has become the gospel.  Not here.

Second, I skip the deep frying.  Who needs the fat or the mess?

Third, when finished, I defy you to suggest that these wings aren’t every bit as good, and you can eat more of them, because they are skinnier.

A couple of notes:  This recipe is for a fairly hot/spicy wing presentation.  If you prefer your wings less spicy, delete some of the cayenne pepper from the dry rub, and replace the self-made sauce with your favorite hot-wing sauce from the grocery store.  I have used Texas Pete’s Extra-Mild wing sauce, and all the flavor is there with a tiny little of the spice.  It makes a terrific wing-sauce substitution that the kids can eat.  Texas Pete’s comes in a variety of “hotnesses.”  There are other pretty good wing sauces out there; two of my favorites are Tabasco brand and Budweiser Hot Wing sauce.  Any sauce will do, but read the labels–watch out for fat content.  Some are better than others.  In my view, the lower, the better.  Fat, in this case, doesn’t make the food taste better.

These are simple to make.  Go for iwingst. Treat your party.

Ingredients:

  • canola oil spray
  • 2  1/2 tablespoons  paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon light brown granulated brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fine-ground white pepper
  • 1tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup red hot pepper sauce; I still like Tabasco best, some swear by Frank’s RedHot Pepper Sauce.  Use your favorite.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white vingar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Lots of chicken wings, separated at the joint, tip portion discarded

Preparation:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare sheet pans with a lining of aluminum foil and coat lightly with canola oil spray.

2.  In  a large bowl, add the first 11 ingredients (paprika through ground ginger).  This is a dry rub I keep around premade in a container all the time; the recipe makes about 3/4 cup;  for this recipe I use about 1/2 cup.  If you’re making it up fresh, mix the ingredients well.  Add the wings to the bowl and toss well to coat thoroughly.  Use your hands or a big kitchen spoon.  Make sure the wings are coated with the rub.

3.  Spread the wings on the sheet pans and spray lightly again with canola oil.  Bake in the preheated oven, turning once, until done and nicely browned, 20-30 minutes.  If you have a convection oven, turn on the fan.

4.  Wash the large bowl, add the pepper sauce, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and mix well.

5.  Put the cooked wings back in the bowl and toss to coat with the sauce.

Serve hot with celery sticks and blue cheese dip.  I make the blue cheese dip with 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese and 2 cups Ken’s Lite Blue Cheese salad dressing.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday.  Make these wings and eat hearty, without the guilt.  Eat as many as you can.  Super Bowl Sunday only comes once a year.

Yet Another Pad Thai

Ingredients:
12 ounces dried rice noodlespad thai
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
halves, sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coarsely ground peanuts
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon paprika, or to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges
Directions:
1. Place rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with several inches of room temperature water; let soak for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain.
2. Whisk sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, and tamarind paste in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and minced garlic in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Stir in eggs; scramble until eggs are nearly cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add cooked chicken breast slices and rice noodles; stir to combine.
5. Stir in tamarind mixture, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, and salt; cook until noodles are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in peanuts; cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with bean sprouts, chives, paprika, and lime wedges.
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