Monday, May 31, 2010
Sometimes pictures just don't do you justice. The truth is, this dish was excellent. Try it and you'll see.
Shredded Chicken Mole:
Take about 5 large breasts, or 8-10 tenders. Chop into olive-sized chunks and give a nice dose of salt and pepper. Chop 1 half large onion, set aside.
Pan fry chicken with about 2 Tbs olive oil on high until starting to brown. Add in onion and fry another few minutes. Pop in 6-8 cloves garlic through a press. Stir and fry another minute or so. Squeeze juice from 2-3 juicy oranges into mix, and also add 1 1/2 cup boiling chicken broth. Stir, bring to boil and reduce heat to low. Add in 2-3 Tbs dried Pasilla chili, more salt and pepper, some New Mexico chili powder, some onion powder, some ground cumin. Simmer this for at least 20 minutes, maybe 30. Break up and shred the chicken with a fork and spatula. Add in some dark chocolate. I used about 3 Tbs of 70% dark chocolate. Melt that in for about 5 minutes, and you're ready to go.
Serve with tortilla chips as an appetizer.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Less than 30 minutes from brain to table...
I don't know about you, but starch is my personal friend. So is oil. Come to think of it, this plate has just a bunch of my close friends - spice, shrimp, mango, sour, the list goes on. I think the plating is off though. Maybe I should have stacked the mango on the potato cake, and the shrimp on the mango? Or maybe the shrimp on one potato cake and add diced mango on top, surrounded by chimichurri? Who knows.
Anyway, I wasn't exactly sure how the potato cakes would turn out, since this was a first time experiment for me. I also knew I wanted something with a punch to dip the cakes into, and I had some fresh Italian parsley on hand - chimichurri was a logical choice. Also fresh mango? Why not.
3 large potatoes, skinned, washed, and shredded using a large cheese grater. Grate those into a bowl and have a colander ready. You want to wash the starch off, so you're going to soak the potatoes for a few minutes, then run them into the colander with fresh water running over, then back in to the bowl. Repeat the cycle a couple of times until the water runs clear. Drain them well, and dry them with a towel. Set aside, but use within 15 minutes, or they're gonna turn pink, green and nasty.
Pour about 1/4 cup of flour into a large bowl. Add cold water slowly, mixing as it goes in. You're making a batter that runs with the consistency of a pancake batter but slightly runnier. This is a trial and error task. It's maybe 50-50 water flour, but possibly less water. Blend well, breaking up all flour chunks.
Now stir in ample amounts of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Mix well.
Meanwhile, grate 1/2 onion and 1/4 carrot into the mixture bowl. Add one beaten egg. Mix well.
Now take handfuls of potatoes at a time and mix into your master bowl. You won't necessarily want to add all the potatoes, but add them handfuls at a time, mixing all the time. You want a consistency where the potatoes clump together, but it's still slightly runny. This is not a dry mixture- it is very wet.
Heat vegetable oil on medium-high at about 1" until hot. Drop large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the pan, forming into a small cake with your spoon as you go. I used a 16" pan and only did three at a time...you don't want to crowd or it will lower the oil temperature too much.
Fry about 3 minutes per side until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and plate up.
Get a blender ready and add the following:
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 olive oil
2 small handfuls of Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 of a ripe mango, diced
4 cloves garlic, through a press
salt and pepper
Blend well and set aside. Blend again before using or you might have froth develop and separation occur. I kept mine in the blender pending use.
Pan Seared Butter Shrimp:
8-10 shrimp. Add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, dried oregano and basil. Stir and mix well. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
Heat 3 Tbs butter to medium-high and foaming. Add shrimp and increase heat to high, frying up a couple of minutes. DON'T OVERCOOK! Remove the shrimp to plate and drizzle oil atop.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The meal you choose to cook at any given time is the function of many things, but for a Foodie - a person interested in the truth and experience of food, it's really about two things: ingredients on hand and creativity. Not everything needs to be extraterrestrial, because a good bowl of broth can be just as satisfying as a dish that looks like food version of the Pageant of the Masters. It's really about honing your ability to take one element, a technique, an ingredient, a taste, and transform that into a decent meal on your plate.
Tonight I knew one thing - I wanted Panko fried onto something. The 'something' left me a few choices...shrimp, chicken, maybe a root vegetable steamed, mashed and rolled into a ball? From one ingredient, you tend to imagine the next. For me, it was chicken. Every time, the plate just builds and builds in my mind until I imagine a finished dish. You see, if you're going to fry chicken breasts with Panko, you probably want something soft, but minor, to accompany it. Maybe a gremolata? Maybe even a small salad? I love onions, so I opted for caramelized onions. Something I also had on hand.
the carrots? Well, I didn't have any other vegetable of substance in my fridge, so there was really no choice involved. Yes, if it was up to me, I wouldn't feel the need to desecrate my plate with a vegetable, but that's part of my agreement with my wife - if I cook, there should be a vegetable.
Anyway, you start to see the picture of how this works.
But back to meal choices real quick. It's always pleasing to balance textures. A crispy chicken breast needs to be balanced with something not crispy...another reason why the carrots complimented the meal.
2-3 chicken tenders or 1 chicken breast per person. Pounds this out between sheets of plastic wrap or inside a freezer bag. These don't need to be paper thin...maybe 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. If you use a full breast, you'll probably want to butterfly it and then pound it out. Once it's ready, I salt, pepper and garlic those bad boys generously. Then I sprinkle Panko all about and smash it into all sides. You'll fry these in a few tablespoons of medium-hot oil. They probably need a couple of minutes per side. Once they're on your plate, squeeze a bit of lemon to brighten them up.
This is really about slow cooking. Slice an onion and get a pan going medium. Add 2 Tbs oil, and add onions, stirring well. Keep the temperature high enough to keep them cooking, but low enough so as not to brown them. When I say "brown them," I mean the kind of browning that comes from a high heat. You will see the onions turn brown, but it will be a translucent brown from the breakdown of the sugars- that's a good thing. Stir constantly and you'll have beautiful caramelized onions in 20 minutes or so.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I always look forward to Spanish food. At my house, it usually means Paella and a Tapas or two. Otherwise, it's a bunch of Tapas. The flavors are amazing, the use of seafood is exciting and it's also a chance for me to use flavors I don't always use - saffron, smoked paprika - great, but intense stuff.
This particular meal was inspired by a mouth-watering episode of Made in Spain with Jose Andres. I was lurking around Hulu and came across it. It just so happens I have a great Tapas book by him too. He went to this place that served Tortilla de patata and I was sold.
I really felt like having Paella, since it's been many months without. Tortilla and Paella? Yep, it works. Now I'm starting to get frustrated that I live in an area that purports to be diverse, yet I have not been able to locate Spanish chorizo at any store in my area. Mexican chorizo, sure. Spanish chorizo? Nope. If anyone knows where I can get it, please let me know. Meanwhile, I've had to sub Mexican for Spanish and hope for the best. I've also had to really improvise with my approach because Spanish chorizo works very differently than Mexican...the former holds its form like a sausage, the latter breaks up into tiny little pieces if you don't deal with it properly. So, for my Paella, I made Mexican chorizo meatballs first - this means I rolled them into walnut-sized balls and pan fried them in my paella pan so I'd have the oils and flavor.
Enough, let's get to the recipe...
Fry chorizo (see note above) until nearly cooked, remove to a plate.
Fry up 1 pound shrimp until just opaque, remove to a plate.
Fry up 2 fillets of firm white fish in a bunch of 1" chunks (I used Mahi Mahi - not a traditional choice, but an excellent selection, I must say), remove to the same plate as shrimp.
Finely dice 1 onion, pour 4 Tbs olive oil into paella pan heated medium and fry towards caramelization...maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Pop 4 large cloves of garlic through a press and mix into the onions for a couple of minutes. Remove to your plate with the chorizo.
Put 6 small slices of pimenton into the pan and fry up 2 minutes, then add a whopping amount of smoked paprika. Stir and fry, stir and fry. Add 3-4 grated tomatoes or 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes and fry up 2 minutes or so. Add 3 cups of Aribol0 rice and stir to coat, frying for a couple minutes. Add 5 cups of boiling broth [I've made paella with fish broth in the past, but this time I used a chicken broth with some saffron, white wine, salt, pepper and a bay leaf - excellent]. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat slightly (keep the bubbles going, but don't have it on high). Add in the chorizo, and onion/garlic mixture, stir and let cook for 15 minute or so. Use a spatula and stir around the top of the rice and some of the liquid to redistribute and cook for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, then lay out the seafood on top. Cook a few more minutes until cooked. Turn off heat and cover with foil for 5-10 minutes.
Plate your portion, squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle some parsley.
Tortilla de Patata:
Take three small potatoes, skin and slice into really small slices...something like quarter or nickel size. Put those into a large bowl and run water through to rinse of starch, keep rinsing, then drain and dry.
Heat 1" deep olive oil and fry up the potatoes into a golden brown. Drain and reserve oil.
Caramelize 1 onion for 15 minutes. Drop into your potatoes.
Don't break up the potatoes!
Meanwhile mix 6 eggs and then add in potatoes and onions. Heat some of the potato olive oil to medium heat and pour in egg-potato mixture. shake lightly and let fry up for 5 minutes or so. Use a small spatula and make sure the side have pulled away.
Use a large plate over the top of the egg, holding the pan/plate over a large bowl, flip onto the plate, then slide the tortilla back into the pan. Poke a quick hole in the center and pour in any of the excess liquid that poured out into your large bowl. Fry up a few more minutes and remove out to plate.
The texture should be firm on the outside and soft on the inside.
Enjoy with a nice Spanish wine. I had a Tempranillo - very nice.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
There's something so warm, so diverse about North African cuisine. Though there are common base ingredients in American cooking - fish, meat, grains - the flavors are nothing close. At least not to your average meal. I'm not a huge fan of cinnamon, for instance, but when ground down with paprika, cumin and coriander onto a nice cut of beef, it's mind blowing.
For my part, I often build meals around a single ingredient or something specific I want to see on my plate. In this case, I've been craving Harissa, a common hot chili sauce found in North African cooking. That was the starting point, and also knowing that I wanted crab cakes.
That was a little tougher for me, because I seriously doubt North Africans eat crab cakes. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong, but it just didn't sound common. But, that's what's happening up in my house...Harissa and Crab cakes!
And you can't have a good crab cake without aioli, can you? I like to tie my dishes together with a common thread. Often it's just garlic or tomato or something like that. But, in this case, I felt the Harissa presented a nice, strong connector. Harissa aioli? Why not?
As it came together, I recalled seeing an image of a crab cake atop some vegetables formed through a round. To be honest, I didn't really feel like having a vegetable. I also needed to consider texture and I wanted something unique - unexpected. So, I opted for corn over sticky rice.
There you have it.
1 pound crab meat (I used claw meat from a can, but you can use any good quality crab, not imitation).
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup mayo
2 Tbs fresh herbs, chopped (I used rosemary, basil, Italian parsley, and thyme)
salt and pepper
Mix everything except panko together, leaving the crab lumps intact. Form balls and roll them in panko. Remove to baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out in panko again and pan fry in olive oil a few minutes per side. Medium-high heat, light film of oil.
Make your Harissa first. Then add a little bit at a time for taste to some mayo. I also push 2-3 cloves of garlic through a press and into the aioli. I'm a huge fan of garlic, so you might want 1 clove. Squeeze a bit of lemon and mix to a nice consistency.
Heat on medium some olive oil and throw in 1 diced onion. Stir for 5 minutes, then add an equal amount of corn. Push 3 cloves garlic through a press. Stir mixture and cook for 5 minutes. Grind down equal parts of paprika, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and caraway seed. Add salt and pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Stir this into the mixture. Cook another 5 minutes, then add 1-2 Tbs tomato paste. Stir and cook another 5 minutes. At the last minute or so, add in a Tbs of Harissa.
Sweet Sticky Rice:
I used Japanese sticky rice. Soak it for 1 hour. Line a steaming basket with banana leaves. Spoon the rice onto the leaves and steam for 20 minutes. Open, and pour on 1 Tbs sugar and 1 tsp Harissa. Stir and steam another couple of minutes. Ready to eat.
I don't know why I saved this for last, since you need it for all the other parts, but oh well. There are many ways to make Harissa. Try this one:
1 large jar of roasted red peppers, drained, placed in a blender or processor
2-3 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic through a press
ground cumin, coriander and caraway. crushed red pepper or cayenne
Some juice from a lemon
Blend and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
You can see from my picture how I prepared this dish. I think the crab cakes work well stacked on or against something. Think about the textures.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Korean-Hawaiian Grilled Chicken with Flambed Pineapples, Japanese-Style Macaroni Salad and Strawberry Salad
I was looking at a coupon magazine and saw an ad for this Hawaiian place in Corona. I went there years ago, but thought it was disgusting then and the pictures in this magazine reminded me of just how bad it was. Instant inspiration to have it, but have it good.
If you've been to Hawaii, you know how much Japanese culture has influenced local food. I love Japanese food, but I wouldn't say I love Hawaiian. Aside from Luau food, which I find as interesting as my Junior High cafeteria food, I guess I've never really had it. I mean, sure, I've had L&L and places like that, but the meat always taste like hotdogs to me.
Anyway, I knew I wanted pineapple, so I built the meal around that.
Korean-Hawaiian Grilled Chicken:
Get out 2 chicken tenderloins, or 1 breast per person. In a blender, blend 1/2 onion (preferably Maui Sweet, but brown/yellow will do), 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 sugar, 1/4 vegetable oil, splash of sesame oil, chopped green onions and about 5-7 garlic cloves, minced. Mash up some really ripe pineapple and lay it over the top of the chicken. Pour the mixture over the chicken, and let that marinade at least 30 minuets, but up to 1 hour is good.
Heat your grill and grill the chicken, basting it in the marinade twice on each side. If you lack common sense, please remember that your marinade had raw meat in it, so make sure the last time you baste it, it has time to cook through (and, of course, remember which utensils you're using to flip, baste, etc., for the same reason).
Those will be good to go, and you can top them with chopped green onion and sesame seeds if you like. Note: Why is this Korean-Hawaiian? The base is a marinade for Korean Galbi, with the addition of pineapple (the Hawaiian contribution).
I don't know how to do the little mark that goes above the "e", but this is flam-bay I'm talking about...flames!
Chop 2 cups of pineapple. Melt 2 tbs butter in steel skillet until foaming. Add pineapple and fry 1 minute or so. Sprinkle a small bit of sugar across the pineapple...this will help caramelize when the flames hit. Pour in rum (maybe 1/4 cup), and tilt to the side to catch a flame. This will become engulfed in flames, so watch the hair, clothes, people standing by, etc. The flame cooks off the alcohol, and once it's out, fry another minute.
Japanese-Style Macaroni Salad:
Cook elbow macaroni according to instructions but add 4 extra minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Drain again and place in a large bowl. Add sufficient mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip - don't ask), a Tbs of sugar, some minced green onions, and mix well. Put this in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lots of people will add things like chopped celery, carrots, shallots, vinegar, etc., but I like it simple.
This is a really refreshing salad, and it takes 5 minutes to make. It's good with just about any meal that needs something cool and refreshing, so put it in your arsenal.
Slice 5-10 strawberries. Slice 1/2 red onion. Get bagged salad, or chop Romaine or Spinach or whatever you like...any of these will work. Place all this in a large bowl. In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 balsamic vinegar, and mix well. Pour over your salad and mix everything up. Put this in the fridge for 15 minutes, mixing often. You can add feta chunks, sliced almonds, candied almonds, walnuts or pecans, or even toasted pine nuts. This is a really good palate for texture.
I served this meal with basic brown rice.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
This was an appetizer for a Kentucky Derby party I went to on Saturday (yes, the one with about 100 bottles of wine and Jason's 100 proof Mint Julep that practically killed me!). It was one of those things - "just bring wine, don't need anything else." Yeah, but it's hard to show up empty handed to a party like that. Plus, when I feel like cooking, I cannot be stopped.
So I questioned my logic of taking a seafood dish in a car ride, but trust me, I know what I'm doing. Deep ice in the ice chest, check. Also, when taking something like this from one place to another, you really need to think about flavor melds and plating. I figured I would package all the parts separate and assemble in-house. That worked just fine.
You might be wondering about the walnut oil - creativity, not confines. Since I knew I was going to use sake, I wanted an oil with nut attributes...one that worked with sake. It was a leap, but it worked.
Scallop Ceviche with Sake-Walnut Oil Gremolata:
1 pound large scallops (not Bay scallops), sliced in half across the body, i.e., left to right, not top to bottom. You will have roughly 1/2" medallions. Place those in a shallow dish, but one that will have a lid. Squeeze juice from 1 lemon, 4 Mandarin oranges, and 2 Tsp sake into dish. Add 2 cloves garlic, minced. Stir, cover, then place in fridge for 45 minutes. Stir, place back in fridge for at least another 45 minutes. (The scallops are probably ready to eat at about 60 minutes, but you can also keep them in marinade a few hours).
Meanwhile, prepare gremolata: Get about 1 Tsp lemon zest. Mince small handful of Italian parsley. Mince 2 cloves garlic. Mix it all up and add a splash of sake, and a spin of Walnut oil. Set aside.
Prepare Lime-Sake Dressing: Squeeze 2 limes into small bowl, add 1 Tsp sake, a spin of Walnut oil, and 1/4 minced Serrano chili. Add a dash of Kosher salt. Mix well and let stand at least 30 minutes before use. Mix well before using.
Now to the plating: Remove scallops to serving platter, one by one. Drain as you go, so they have a bit of moisture, but not dripping. Sprinkle a bit of Kosher salt across each one. Once they're arranged and salted, top each one with a bit of your gremolata. Then drizzle some Lime-Sake dressing all over. Finish with a small bit of lime. Ready to serve!
Monday, May 3, 2010
I read an article by a guy I follow and he mentioned an article he read in the Wall Street Journal about corks and the wine industry. It's a very interesting read, so check it out. In fact, if you drink wine at all, you should really have an idea about this problem. The thing is, one company revolutionized a 400 year old cork problem. Sometimes change is not good, but sometimes it is. We're just slow to accept it.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Well, my friend Jason was talking about wanting to go vegetarian for a week and it got me thinking, "man, I sure don't eat enough vegetables." It's not that I don't like them, or at least some of them. It's just that I don't always think about it. I mean, maybe this meal doesn't really even count, since sweet potatoes aren't always viewed as a vegetable. They are, I understand, but you know how it is.
Anyway, you already know about my affinity for Mahi Mahi, and I was feeling like something semi-healthy for dinner. But I've also been thinking about textures on my plate, and I didn't want fish with mashed sweet potato - the textures are just too similar. So fried is always good, isn't it?
Salty-Sweet Fried Sweet Potatoes:
Peel one large sweet potato, and cube into small squares. Boil enough water to cover at least 2 inches, and boil sweet potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until edible but not completely cooked through. Drain and set aside. Dry them and salt them. Dry them again - you don't want any liquid on these when you fry them.
Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, turning and moving them around often. Salt them just a tad while in the pan once more. When you have about 1-2 minutes left, melt 2 tbs butter with 1 Tsp sugar in a small sauce pan. Remove the sweet potatoes to a bowl and dry off oil with a paper towel. Pour over butter-sugar mixture. Serve with a small amount of minced Italian parsley.
Spicy White Corn with Balsamic Vinegar:
Take 1 head of white corn and slice off kernels...set aside. Mince 2 large shallots, 1/4 Serrano chili and add to corn. Heat 1 Tsp olive oil until smoking. Add all ingredients and blacken, stirring often. Salt and Pepper. Fry and blacken a minute or two, then add 1 Tsp balsamic vinegar and stir quickly. Pour off into a bowl ready to top on your fish.
My pan seared Mahi Mahi recipe is already posted.