Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Northern Thai Honey-Spiced Chicken and Dipping Sauce: for Rose

My granddaughter, Christina Rose (“Rose”), visited Thailand with most of the family several years ago. In Chiang Mai, in the north where we have relatives, she had honey-barbecued chicken that she declared was her favorite dish of the trip. I sought out recipes to reproduce this variety of barbecue, but none were to be had. For many years we have made the more typical Thai barbecued chicken, Gai Yang, but that’s from the northeast, and originated with the Isaan – or Lao – ethnic group rather than Northern Thai people.

Plate: Maria Dondero, Marmalade Pottery, Athens GA
Based on what descriptions I could get from those who also tasted Rose’s favorite chicken, I sketched out a method and a dipping sauce to go with it. While I can’t vouch for my dish’s authenticity, it tastes Thai and “pretty damn good,” as we say in the restaurant kitchen. More important, it pleased Rose. I’ve made it for family gatherings and even included it on the menu of our restaurant’s Tapas evening when the theme was Thai, where it was well received.

Chicken thigh, boneless and skinless, is a lot easier to work with than a whole chicken skinned and disjointed. I think is the best way to make and grill this, and I developed the recipe for that form of chicken. The meat needs to marinate for at least a few hours before grilling, and even better is overnight marinating.

Steamed sticky rice goes with the chicken (as it would with the usual Gai Yang), but conventional white, unsalted rice, Thai jasmine rice in particular, is fine also. Offer lettuce and fresh herbs to wrap the chicken pieces in, and accompany with a dipping sauce (see recipe below).

Here’s a recipe for fixing three pounds of chicken. This is a crowd or entertainment dish, after all, not particularly something to make just for a couple.

The chicken:
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh, tough parts removed and part (not all) of fat trimmed off 

Puree thoroughly in food processor:
1 small garlic clove
2 lemon grass stalks, using the lower 6 inches, thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro, stem parts only (use leaves in sauce and other dishes)
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

Transfer to a bowl and add:
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne
1 teaspoon cornstarch
6 double lime leaves, well bruised to release flavors
4 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil

Marinate chicken at least a few hours, or ideally overnight, in zip-lock plastic bag, turning and squeezing the bag occasionally to season evenly.

Grill chicken (discard marinade) over charcoal or gas grill or under broiler, turning frequently, until thoroughly done. Cut into 1/2-inch strips with the grain. Accompany with rice, lettuce leaves and cilantro (plus optional mint) sprigs to roll the chicken pieces in, and small bowls of dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce for Northern Thai grilled chicken:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
Salt to taste, start with 1/4 teaspoon
Chili-garlic sauce, or hot pepper sauce, to taste
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
1 bruised clove garlic

Mix all ingredients well together to dissolve. Taste for salt and hotness and adjust to taste. Let sit for 20 minutes or more. Remove garlic before serving.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Wasabi-Miso Crusted Chicken with Chili-Garlic Aioli

A few years ago I cooked with a student friend, Clint, who at the time carried the diagnosis of Coeliac disease (totally gluten intolerant) and had to be very careful with his eating. Both of us enjoyed cooking, and we started a food blog on international dishes that by nature did not contain gluten (dishes that traditionally were free of wheat, barley or rye) rather than substituting gluten-free ingredients into normally gluten-containing dishes. One of our creations was this Japanese-influenced wasabi-miso grilled chicken. It was to be served with rice.

But we never published it. After posting half a dozen recipes, we suddenly lost interest and purpose in our blog. Clint discovered that the clinical diagnosis he had carried for seven or eight years, including all through college, wasn’t correct. He was totally fine with wheat (pizza, pasta, bread, cakes and pies, soy sauce, hoisin sauce) as well as barley – notably beer!

Here’s a tweaked version of our working recipe that never made it into print. It serves four to six when accompanied by a rice or noodle dish.

1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breast
3 tablespoons non-wheat-containing miso
2 teaspoons non-wheat-containing wasabi paste
1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 green onion, thinly sliced for garnish

Trim off tough, or fatty parts from chicken.  Cut meat into 1/2 inch thick medallions. 

Mix well with remaining ingredients.  Spread chicken pieces out on large baking sheet. Roast on top shelf of pre-heated 375-degree oven for 10 minutes. Flip pieces with metal spatula.  Roast for 4-6 additional minutes, or until lightly golden. 

Serve on a generous streak of chili-garlic aioli (see below) and garnish with thinly sliced green onion.

Chili-Garlic Aioli

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chili-garlic or Siracha sauce
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine ingredients.

Apricot or Nectarine Chutney

Dried fruit is easily made into chutneys, which can be served as a condiment to a meat dish or meat sandwich. Even more usefully, especially around the holidays, top a log of goat cheese, Brie, or even a Mexican-style cheese like Queso Fresco or Cotija, for an easy appetizer for a buffet or party. Chutneys are best made ahead and stored refrigerated in order for the flavors to develop.

The recipe serves six to eight as a condiment.
1 cup dried apricots or nectarines (packed) or a combination, chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (or 1 tablespoon candied/crystalized ginger, minced)
1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
A generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
A generous pinch of cayenne

Place all ingredients in an enamel or stainless steel pan. Stir and heat, and let simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time. If the mixture is too dry (it should be moist) add a little water as needed.

Taste, to check tenderness of the fruit and the seasonings. Add a little salt, sugar, and/or vinegar to reach the desired taste.
Store in covered jar in refrigerator, ideally at least overnight up to several days before serving.

This chutney compliments a variety of cheeses on the buffet or appetizer table, accompanied by low-salt crackers, like “water crackers,” or sliced baguette.

Spiced Applesauce for Potato Pancakes or to accompany Roasted Pork

This sauce serves as a condiment, particularly for potato pancakes, or Hanukkah latkes. A variation on the applesauce theme is to add chopped dried cranberries. I taught the cranberry version to accompany Latkes in a recent cooking class on holiday foods, that featured Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year dishes.

The recipe makes sufficient condiment for a group of diners.
3 large (1-1/2 to 2 pounds) Fuji or Gala apples
2 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Peel and quarter apples. Cut out cores. Slice apple quarters crosswise 1/2-inch thick. If using dry cranberries, chop them finely on a board with a chef’s knife.

In stainless steel or enamel pot, combine apples, cranberries if used, butter or olive oil, water, lemon juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer, covered, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Uncover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally until apples are very tender and liquid is reduced. If mixture becomes dry, add a small amount of water.

When apples are very tender, remove from heat. Break apples up with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Taste and add a little sugar or salt, if desired.

Serve warm or at room temperature in a bowl, to accompany potato pancakes or roasted pork.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Easy Pork and Cabbage Goulash

With the weather now turning chilly and fully autumnal, a hearty goulash fits the season well. Here’s a relatively easy one to make for a very tasty meal. Accompany with buttered noodles, boiled or steamed potatoes, or a rice dish. A simple green salad makes a fine accompaniment.

The recipe serves six generously.

1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
Dish by Maria Dondero, Marmalade Pottery, Athens, GA
1 small head cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly slices across
1 pound ground pork
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons paprika, Hungarian if possible
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon marjoram or oregano
Large pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon tomato paste (keep the rest in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for other use)
1 cup low-salt chicken broth or water, plus more as needed
1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra for serving

Fry onion in the oil, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden. Add cabbage and fry, stirring frequently, until starting to get a little golden. Add pork and stir and fry, breaking up the lumps, until color has fully changed. Add seasonings, salt, and tomato paste. Stir and fry for one minute.

Add broth or water and mix well. Lower heat and simmer, covered but stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. Add a little broth or water as needed to keep the mixture moist.

Stir in sour cream and bring back just to a boil. Remove from heat. Taste and add a little salt if needed. Remove bay leaves.

Serve with noodles, potatoes or a rice dish. Offer more sour cream for diners to spoon onto their goulash. Accompany with a salad.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Cream (or Balsamic Vinegar)

As autumn is finally here with some moderately chilly weather and dry air, autumnal dishes seem right. Here is rich-flavored European dish for a hearty cold-weather dinner.

The recipe serves four to six as a side dish.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar 
1 pound Brussels sprouts (smaller firm ones preferred)
2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Small pinch grated nutmeg (optional)
Water as needed
Either 4 tablespoons light to heavy cream or 2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar

Cut off bottom 1/4 inch of stem from sprouts. Slice sprouts lengthwise into 4-5 slices, about 1/8-inch thick, or put trimmed sprouts through 2-millimeter shredding blade of a food processor.

Mince shallot or onion and add them to pot with butter or olive oil. Heat over medium burner until just starting to sizzle. Add sliced sprouts, 1/2 teaspoon salt and spices. Stir frequently and fry, covered, just until beginning to turn golden, 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Add 2 tablespoons water, and stir to moisten. Cover, and let sprouts simmer, stirring frequently, until they become tender but are still fairly green (total of 8-10 minutes cooking time from first frying).

Stir in cream or balsamic vinegar. If too dry, moisten with a little water. Bring just back to a simmer and remove from heat. Taste, and add salt if needed.

Roasted Acorn Squash – in the Microwave Oven!

With autumn finally here, we’re enjoying cold-weather produce. Baked acorn squash is a fall treat from my childhood in Connecticut, and just seems perfectly New England – which my mother symbolized. And my father, originally from New Hampshire, used to grow the squash. This fairly unique vegetable makes a great side dish for a roast or meatloaf.

Of course, in those days, my mother baked the halved acorn squash in the oven, which we would still do if there are many squash to bake. But if cooking for two people, or a very small group, baking squash (like baking potatoes and sweet potatoes) in the microwave oven is a time and energy saver.

Here’s baked acorn squash, as tasty as I remember from my childhood, but cooked in little more than ten minutes. The butter and brown sugar in the hollow of the squash still makes it a winner. A bit of spice, like cinnamon or nutmeg, could traditionally be added during the cooking, but as much as I love spices and herbs, I prefer this squash simple.

Be sure the squash are very ripe and hard – grown in the north (rather than California or Mexico) is a good start, and with a hardened stem and some orange showing on the dark green skin.

For each two diners:

1 medium-large very ripe, firm acorn squash
4 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cut squash in half lengthwise with a chef’s knife on a cutting board. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp with a spoon. Sprinkle cavities and cut edges of the squash generously with salt. Place cut side up on a microwaveable plate.

Microwave until tender when pierced with a fork on the inside, 8-10 minutes, depending on the power of the microwave. Test after 8 minutes and if not done, microwave another two minutes, then test again.

When flesh is reasonably tender, add 2 teaspoons butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar to the cavity of each squash. The butter will melt quickly. With spoon, smear the butter-sugar mixture all around the cavity and all over the cut edges of the squash. Microwave another two minutes. Test once more with a fork to be sure the flesh is tender.

On dinner plate, scoop up the flesh with a teaspoon and eat it directly.