The Wine List (Thanksgiving Edition Part 2)

Thanksgiving has to be one of my most favorite holidays.  Even though it was a week ago, I’m still dreaming of the sausage stuffing made by my friend, Holly.  The delicious smell of roasted fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts with garlic and rosemary still lingers in my kitchen.  The turkey…oh, the turkey!  Pieced out and slow-roasted to a golden brown – pure heaven!  We also enjoyed a boozy version of cranberry relish spiked with vodka and Grand Mariner, and a lovely kale caesar salad that has become a specialty of my friend, Pat.

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The table was set with my great grandmother’s china.

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Roast Chicken (Again, Because Why Not?)

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Guys, for the last five weeks I have been involved in a practicum experience as part of my degree; I have been working with a wonderful English teacher and her 8th graders every morning and Friday was my last day.  I absolutely loved my experience and the conclusion was bittersweet.  I was sad to say goodbye to the students I worked with, but I was happy to be able to get back in the kitchen and start blogging again.

As you all know, I love roast chicken.  I posted about it a couple of years ago, but I wanted to revisit it.  This time, I chose to keep it even simpler; no veggies, no herbs, no roasting pan, no nonsense.  Just a chicken, some kosher salt and black pepper, and a skillet.

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White Chicken Chili

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This semester has been absolutely hectic and my absence from blogging has been weighing on me.  I apologize to those of you who follow and read my musings and recipes; hopefully this delightful and hearty soup will make up for my inability to keep more than a few plates spinning at the same time.

We’ve entered Autumn in the midwest; my favorite season.  The air gets crisp and clean, the windows are open, and the sweaters have been unpacked.  I love baking and cooking during this season, as it lends itself to some of my favorite recipes: roast chicken, shepherd’s pie, chicken noodle soup, lasagna and chili.

Recently I was craving the latter, but was also craving a change.  Rather than go with the usual tomato-based chili with pinto, black, and kidney beans, I opted for simplicity: chicken thighs and cannellini beans.

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Ginger-Basil Chicken Thighs with Green Tomato

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I’ve professed my love for The Kitchn many times on this blog, but this time, it’s serious.  We have a tomato explosion in our garden this year, and as I was staring out my office window and all of the lovely green beauties hanging on their vines, I happened to stumble upon this delightful recipe.  It’s also culinary bonus when I find that I have all the ingredients on hand necessary to complete the dish!

In general, I try to avoid using my oven too much during the summer.  But when zucchini abound, I bake zucchini bread.  When peaches are in season, I bake peach pie.  And when a roasted chicken and tomato dish like this comes along, I do not hesitate to turn on my oven.  It’s that good.

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One of my favorite flavor combinations is ginger and garlic.  The addition of fresh basil from my garden elevated this dish and offered a summery depth of flavor that went perfectly with the green tomatoes.

The original recipe called for Sherry, but I was out, so I used Shaohsing rice cooking wine instead.  You should be able to find it at any Asian market and often in the “international” aisle of your local grocery store.

I also added a little fish sauce and some chopped scallions to round it all off.  The whole dish came together so quickly, which was perfect for a summer night.

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All the ingredients go in the same roasting dish!  So easy!

I chose to pair this with steamed jasmine rice sprinkled with a little rice vinegar.  Roasting the green tomatoes made them slightly sweeter, but they still retained a little sour bite, which went really well with the juicy chicken thighs.  Give this dish a try and let me know how you like it!  Enjoy!

Ginger-Basil Chicken Thighs with Green Tomato
Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients:

1 large (or two medium) green tomatoes, cored, halved, and sliced 1/2 -inch thick
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Shaohsing rice cooking wine
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2-3 scallions, chopped
steamed jasmine rice sprinkled with rice vinegar (for serving)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except 1 tablespoon basil and all the chopped scallions; stir to fully incorporate.

Turn out into a 9×13-inch roasting dish.  Roast until chicken is fully cooked and the tomatoes are softened, around 25 minutes.  Stir halfway through roasting time to make sure all chicken is cooked through.  Serve on steamed rice and garnish with remaining basil and chopped scallions.

 

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Braised Oxtail Tacos with Red Cabbage, Cilantro, and Feta Slaw

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We’ve had a package of oxtails in our freezer since my dad gave them to us at Christmas.  I wasn’t ignoring them; I knew they were there.  I just wasn’t sure what to do with them.  I did know that they were perfect for braising, but beyond that, I was unsure what to do with them once braised.

After a little research, I found that many recipes used them for dishes such as soups, stews, and ragouts.  But I didn’t want to do that, as the weather has been really nice and summery lately.  I wanted to so something relatively light, not heavy like a stew.

My thoughts then shifted to something Scott and I have a lot here at home: black bean tacos.  I thought I could substitute the oxtail for the black beans and do the same basic taco preparation.

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I created a marinade for the oxtail loosely based on a recipe from Kitchen Runway, which is a fabulous site with great recipes and lovely photos.  I was just happy to see that someone was doing something a little different with oxtail AND shared my love of tacos!

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After the initial browning stage.

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Chicken Laksa (Southeast Asian Chicken Noodle Soup)

Last weekend it was really rainy and overcast here in Omaha.  Yes, it’s June, but because of the weather, I was craving chicken noodle soup.  I didn’t want to do the expected noodle soup; I wanted to do something spicy, tangy, something that took me to another place when I ate it.

To the internet I went!

On one of my favorite websites, Food Republic, I found just what I was looking for: something called Chicken Laksa.  One look at the ingredient list told me it was just what I wanted.  And I only had to buy a few items!

I cook with a lot of different spices, so I was glad to see that I had pretty much every spice on the list: coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, and turmeric.  These spices featured a lot in Thai and Indian recipes (which I love) so I always have them on hand.

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I absolutely love going to the Asian market here in town.  Shopping there transports me to another place.  I can spend at least an hour in there, just walking around, discovering ingredients I’ve never seen before.  I fully suggest you do the same.  Find your nearest ethnic market, walk in, and immerse yourself in the food of that culture.  You might be surprised what goes home with you in your shopping bag.

This soup is really easy to put together.  After you grind your spices, chop your shallots and garlic, smash your lemongrass, and cut up your chicken thighs, it pretty much all goes into one pot and boom! you’re done.

I suggest giving this one a try.  If, for any reason, you don’t have a spice or coffee grinder,  you can use pre-ground spices from the market.  Also, if you can’t find shrimp paste (I absolutely had to go to the Asian market for it) I’m sure you could substitute fish sauce.

However, I know that I really loved the boost of flavor the shrimp paste gave.  It doesn’t smell good, but boy, it was a lovely addition to the soup.  If you do substitute, just be sure to taste, as both are salty and exact substitutions might be off.

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Chicken Laksa (Southeast Asian Chicken Noodle Soup)
Adapted from Food Republic

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you really like it spicy)
2 lemongrass stalks
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
8 ounces mung bean sprouts, rinsed
8 ounces wide rice noodles
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn
lime wedges
Sambal Oelek chili paste (can find at Asian market)

Method:

In a spice or coffee grinder, place first seven ingredients and grind to medium-fine powder.  Set aside.  Peel off outer layers of lemongrass stalks and give them a good whack on your counter.  Or, if you’re feeling inclined, smash the core with a heavy skillet.  Basically, you’re crushing them in order for them to give off their lovely lemony flavor (you’ll take them out of the soup at the end).

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  When hot, add the cubed chicken, shrimp paste, shallots, and spice mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Add coconut milk, broth, sugar, and salt.  Add cinnamon stick and lemongrass stalks.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least 20 minutes.

In a separate pot, bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil.  Toss in bean sprouts and blanche them until softened, about 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon or a spider, transfer sprouts to a bowl.  Add noodles to same pot and cook until firm, but pliable, about 4-5 minutes; drain.

Divide sprouts and noodles among bowls.  Remove lemongrass and cinnamon stick from soup pot.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with cilantro.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over soup and add as much Sambal Oelek as your tongue can handle.

If you’re going to store this for leftovers, be sure to keep components separate.  When reheating, pour soup into saucepan and heat on stove over medium.  There’s no need to reheat the noodles; the soup will take care of that.

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Too Busy To Cook??

Yes…it’s true.  The past two weeks have been two of the busiest weeks so far this year.  School is really throwing down and it seems like just when I have it all under control, my classes knock me down again.  Oh, and I should mention our furnace died earlier this week and it’s winter in the midwest.  Stressed!  Fear not, though, as a new furnace is being installed at this very moment!

My sincere apologies to all of you dear and devoted readers.  You are out there, right?

I have only made a few things worth sharing in the last two weeks – ramen and some lovely snacks I brought to an Oscar party.

The ramen:

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Now, this dish was no easy feat.  Just ask David Chang, as it was his recipe I followed.  I’m absolutely loving my Momofuku Cookbook and I’ve been trying to make at least one thing from it every week.  The ramen broth was quite an ordeal.  I had to order five pounds of pork bones from the butcher and then wait.  And wait.  After about five days, I got the call that they were ready.  I had all the other necessary ingredients: kombu, dried shiitake mushrooms, scallions, chicken legs, smoky bacon, onion, and carrots.  I couldn’t wait.  Into the oven went the pork bones!

Before:

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After:

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Just let me tell you, after all was said and done, after all the roasting, simmering, and waiting – the flavor of the broth was divine.  I wish I could hug David Chang and thank him for bringing something so amazing into my life.

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