jamaican jerk chicken

Sometimes (most times) I get cranky after going to the grocery store here. It isn’t a bad little store, but it just doesn’t have the selection I had in Philadelphia. I’m spoiled. I miss good seafood and more cheese options than I know what to do with and organic produce and looseleaf tea.

One thing I do have available now, in my southern New Mexican town, is good tortillas, half an aisle dedicated to salsa, dependably perfect avocados, and a selection of fresh chiles. (Okay, so here’s another reason why I get cranky at the grocery store. They were out of Scotch Bonnets, and I had to go to Walmart, and I hate going to multiple stores, and I hate Walmart. Stop being out of stuff, grocery store.)

Not that jerk sauce has many chiles in it – when you’re talking about Scotch bonnets, you’ll only be needing a couple, even if they are tiny. They pack a powerful heat punch, and when combined with all sorts of other flavorful ingredients – rum, malt vinegar, onions, garlic thyme fall spices sugar pepper – they make one heck of a flavorful sauce.

The combination of ingredients was new for me, so I was excited. And I think that’s something I need to keep in mind when I get frustrated about how I don’t have the variety of food choices I used to – that even if I can’t find some ingredients and I can’t make some dishes as a result, there are still an infinite amount of great meals I can make by mixing up the food I can find in different ways. Jerk chicken is a perfect example of a dish that uses readily available ingredients to make something that is not only restaurant-quality good, but is interesting and fun as well.

One year ago: Mushroom Salad
Two years ago: Pigs in a Blanket

Printer Friendly Recipe
Jamaican Jerk Chicken (from Bon Apetit, but really epicurious)

8 servings

3 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons water
½ cup malt vinegar
10 green onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 Scotch bonnet chiles or habanero chiles with seeds, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons ground allspice
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons soy sauce
about 6 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts
½ cup fresh lime juice

1. Boil rum and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan for 3 minutes.

2. Transfer the rum mixture to a blender; add the vinegar, green onions, garlic, thyme, chiles, oil, spices, salt, pepper, and sugar; blend until almost smooth. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the jerk seasoning to a small bowl; mix in the ketchup and soy sauce to make the sauce. (Jerk seasoning and sauce can be made 1 day ahead; cover separately and refrigerate.)

3. Arrange the chicken in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour the lime juice over the chicken; turn to coat. Spoon the jerk seasoning over the chicken and rub it into the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning occasionally. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

4. Prepare a two-level grill (more coals on one side than the other). Remove the chicken from the jerk seasoning marinade; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin side down, on the hot side of the grill; grill for about 2 minutes, until seared. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill and continue to cook, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the breasts measure 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer and the legs and thighs read 165 degrees. Serve with the jerk sauce.

I was excited to find plantains when I made this, so maybe I should stop complaining about my grocery store. I sliced and grilled them, unpeeled. They were fantastic dipped in the jerk sauce – kind of like dipping French fries in ketchup, only more…more everything.  More good.

chicken fajitas

I guess they don’t call it “manning” the grill for nothing. Why is it that so many men who have no interest in cooking inside are willing to stand outside and grill? I really thought I’d be the one doing the grilling around here, just like I do the ovening and the stoving, but so far, it’s all Dave. I kind of feel like I should get some practice cooking over fire too, but I can never resist the opportunity to clean up the kitchen or work on the sides or, let’s be honest, mix up my favorite cocktail, while Dave takes care of the cooking.

But while he does enjoy the actual grilling, he really isn’t into the reading the recipe part of the procedure. That means there are constant calls asking me what the next step is. Is there any funny business with the coals? How long does everything cook? What should be on the hotter and on the cooler sides of the grill? And on and on.

And since this is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, there are a fair amount of details to straighten out. But with only 15 minutes of marinating and 10 minutes of grilling, this really is an easy recipe. And what’s so great about it, besides the obvious – charred flavor on everything from the chicken to the vegetables to the tortillas, is the hit of marinade everything gets after it’s cooked. You marinate the meat beforehand, like you’d expect, and then when it comes off the grill, you dump some more flavor on it, as well as on the vegetables. It makes the whole thing taste fresh and citrusy.

One of the things that makes Dave and I such a great team is that we tend to love the same recipes, like this one. Plus, while he mans the grill, I can rush in to wash his tongs for him, bring a clean plate, or, maybe, if the sides are done and the kitchen is reasonably clean and my cocktail is mixed up, stand over the fire and admire the sunset with my husband. Grilling has more advantages than just great food.

One year ago: Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Two years ago: Cinnamon Rolls

Printer Friendly Recipe
Chicken Fajitas (from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 4 to 6

CI’s note: The chicken and vegetables in these fajitas are only mildly spicy. For more heat, include the jalapeno seeds and ribs when mincing. When you head outside to grill, bring along a clean kitchen towel or a large piece of foil in which to wrap the tortillas and keep them warm as they come off the grill. Although the chicken and vegetables have enough flavor to stand on their own, accompaniments (guacamole, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, and lime wedges) can be offered at the table.

My note: I think the oil can be significantly reduced, especially in the part of the marinade used to flavor the vegetables and chicken after they’re cooked.

⅓ cup juice from 2 to 3 limes
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons brown sugar
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1½ tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
table salt and ground black pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds), trimmed of fat, tenderloins removed, pounded to ½-inch thickness
1 large red onion (about 14 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick rounds (do not separate rings)
1 large red bell pepper (about 10 ounces), quartered, stemmed, and seeded
1 large green bell pepper (about 10 ounces), quartered, stemmed, and seeded
8-12 (6-inch) flour tortillas

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, Worcestershire, brown sugar, jalapeno, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Reserve ¼ cup marinade in a small bowl; set aside. Add another teaspoon salt to the remaining marinade. Place the chicken in the marinade; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes. Brush both sides of the onion rounds and the peppers with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, using a large chimney starter, ignite 6 quarts of charcoal briquettes and burn until the coals are fully ignited, about 20 minutes. Empty the coals into the grill, spreading them in a single layer; place an additional 20 unlit coals over the lit coals on one side of grill to create a two-level fire. Position the grill grate over the coals and heat the grate for 5 minutes; scrape clean with a grill brush. (For a gas grill, light all burners and turn to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot, about 15 minutes; scrape the grill grate clean with a grill brush. Leave one burner on high heat while turning the remaining burner(s) down to medium.)

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it smooth side down on the hotter side of the grill; discard the remaining marinade. Place the onion rounds and peppers (skin side down) on the cooler side of the grill. Cook the chicken until it’s well browned, 4 to 5 minutes; using tongs, flip the chicken and continue grilling until it’s no longer pink when cut into with a paring knife or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers about 160 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Meanwhile, cook the peppers until spottily charred and crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice as needed; cook the onions until tender and charred on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes. When the chicken and vegetables are done, transfer them to a large plate; tent with foil to keep warm.

4. Working in 2 or 3 batches, place the tortillas in a single layer on the cooler side of the now-empty grill and cook until warm and lightly browned, about 20 seconds per side (do not grill too long or the tortillas will become brittle). As the tortillas are done, wrap them in a kitchen towel or a large sheet of foil.

5. Separate the onions into rings and place them in a medium bowl; slice the bell peppers lengthwise into ¼-inch strips and place them in the bowl with the onions. Add 2 tablespoons reserved unused marinade to the vegetables and toss well to combine. Slice the chicken into ¼-inch strips and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons reserved marinade in another bowl; arrange the chicken and vegetables on a large platter and serve with the warmed tortillas.

chicken mushroom spinach lasagna

I’m hardcore – I made an Emeril recipe more complicated. I did skip a few of his steps, so maybe I’m not completely ridiculous.

It’s just that if I’m going to go through all the trouble of making lasagna, with cooking chicken, stirring béchamel, layering and baking, I might as well go all the way – homemade pasta and damn good chicken.

So there was no cooking of boneless skinless chicken breasts in a dry pan – weird, isn’t it, that I’m not a fan of dry tasteless meat. Heck no, I roasted those suckers – bone-in, skin-on, thankyouverymuch. And before that, I brined them – hey, it’s a step that takes about 2 minutes of effort and you ensure fully seasoned, moist meat. Why not do it?

But if I’m going to add homemade pasta and brined, roasted, shredded chicken to an already ambitious recipe, I probably needed to cut some corners somewhere. Since I can’t seem to convince myself to enjoy cooked spinach, I decided to skip the cooking and blanching of the spinach and just add shredded baby spinach directly to the béchamel. I wasn’t able to use quite as much, but that’s okay – it was still a colorful, healthy, easy addition.

Okay, so I guess I only skipped one little step in Emeril’s recipe. Oh wait, I also mixed all the chicken and parmesan into the sauce, so I was really only layering two things – sauce and noodles. That probably saved 30 seconds or so of effort. That’s okay, I had fun making the lasagna, and I was completely confident that the extra bit of work I put into it would give me a perfect result, and, yes, it did.

One year ago: Deli-Style Rye Bread
Two years ago: (Almost) No-Knead Bread

Printer Friendly Recipe
Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Alfredo Lasagna (adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

This is how I made the lasagna, but there are some things you could do differently. The original recipe keeps the chicken and some of the parmesan separate from the béchamel, laying pasta-béchamel-cheese-chicken instead of just alternating pasta and chickeny parmesany béchamel, like I did.

Also, the type of pasta you use is entirely up to you. You could use the no-cook dry noodles or buy fresh noodles or make your own. And I don’t know for sure that fresh homemade noodles need to be blanched for lasagna, but the one time I skipped that step was a disaster.

One more thing – the original recipes calls for double these ingredients to be layered into a 9- by 13-inch pan, but I was concerned that I’d have overflow. While my lasagna is a little on the short side, I think twice this height would have been too much for my standard 9- by 13-inch pan. But maybe the quantity of ingredients that I used would make an ideal 8- by 8-inch lasagna?

6 to 8 servings

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on, trimmed of excess fat and skin
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 large shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3½ cups milk
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces spinach, stemmed, washed, sliced into ¼-inch ribbons
3 ounces (1½ cups) grated Parmesan, divided
fresh lasagna noodles (if homemade, use 1 egg + ⅔ cup (3.2 ounces) flour, kneaded and rolled to the
next-to-thinnest setting on a pasta roller, blanched as described here)

1. (Optional) Stir 2 tablespoons salt into 2 cups cold water until it dissolves. Add the chicken; refrigerate for 30 minutes, then remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle-low position and heat the oven to 450ºF. Heat a small oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan; place the chicken breast in the pan skin-side down. Cook without moving until well-browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and move the pan to the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken measures 160ºF or the juices run clear when small cut is made in the chicken. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove and discard the skin (or eat it, because it’s crisp and delicious!) and shred the meat with your fingers or two forks. Decrease the oven temperature to 375ºF.

3. Béchamel: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until their liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are slightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the shallots to the pan and sauté until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, to make a light roux, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 minutes. Add ¾ teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, nutmeg, spinach and 2½ ounces (1¼ cups) of the Parmesan and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes, then add the shredded chicken. Taste the sauce to decide if it needs more salt. Remove the béchamel from the heat and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface until ready to assemble the lasagna.

4. Spray a 9 by 13-inch pan with nonstick spray, and spread about ¼ cup of the béchamel sauce on the bottom of the dish, avoiding any large chunks of chicken. Arrange a single layer of noodles evenly over the sauce. Then alternate layering béchamel and noodles until you run out of noodles – I was able to make 4 layers, I believe. End with the remaining béchamel and sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan.

5. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for about 20 minutes, until bubbly. Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

lighter chicken and dumplings

Aargh, I hate when I choose a recipe specifically because of one step that I find interesting, and then I screw up that step! In this chicken and dumplings recipe, Cooks Illustrated uses chicken wings to thicken the broth, instead of starch. I’m always fascinated by how homemade stock is gelatinous when it’s cold, so I was eager to try out the idea of thickening a broth with natural collagen.

But then I didn’t quite buy chicken wings. Drummettes were more easily available, and they’re from wings, so I figured it was close enough. Too late, I read the recipe description closer and saw that they specifically refer to the joints in wings as having a lot of collagen. D’oh! My little drummettes didn’t have joints.

So much for that trick. I ended up dissolving about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in about ¼ cup of water and stirring that into the broth near the end of cooking. That worked fine, although it wasn’t as fun.

Regardless, the resulting chicken and dumplings were really delicious. I particularly liked the idea of putting a kitchen towel under the lid of the pot while the dumplings cook, so that they’re tops don’t get soggy. I also like that it only has a bit of fat in it, so this meal is light enough to make again soon – correctly this time.

One year ago: Chopped Salad
Two years ago: Oatmeal

Printer Friendly Recipe
Lighter Chicken and Dumplings (from Cooks Illustrated)

Stew:

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2½ pounds), trimmed of excess fat
table salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 small onions, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 medium celery rib, chopped fine (about ½ cup)
¼ cup dry sherry
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 pound chicken wings
¼ chopped fresh parsley leaves

Dumplings:
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
¾ cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg white

1. For the stew: Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken thighs, skin-side down, and cook until skin is crisp and well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown on second side, 5 to 7 minutes longer; transfer to large plate. Discard all but 1 teaspoon fat from pot.

2. Add onions, carrots, and celery to now-empty pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in broth and thyme. Return chicken thighs, with any accumulated juices, to pot and add chicken wings. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until thigh meat offers no resistance when poked with tip of paring knife but still clings to bones, 45 to 55 minutes.

3. Remove pot from heat and transfer chicken to cutting board. Allow broth to settle 5 minutes, then skim fat from surface using wide spoon or ladle. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin from chicken. Using fingers or fork, pull meat from chicken thighs (and wings, if desired) and cut into 1-inch pieces. Return meat to pot.

4. For the dumplings: Whisk flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps; whisk in egg white. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl.

5. Return stew to simmer; stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Using greased tablespoon measure (or #60 portion scoop), scoop level amount of batter and drop over top of stew, spacing about ¼ inch apart (you should have about 24 dumplings). Wrap lid of Dutch oven with clean kitchen towel (keeping towel away from heat source) and cover pot. Simmer gently until dumplings have doubled in size and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 13 to 16 minutes. Serve immediately.

thai-style chicken soup (tom kha gai)

Copy of IMG_1760

Cooking and eating, I think I manage to do ambitiously. I just really like food, and I want to enjoy it as much as absolutely possible. That means I need to eat whatever is offered to me with an open mind. My desire to try new foods is driven by curiosity, but my desire to cook new recipes is about challenging myself. How much can I learn? How good can I be?

Copy of IMG_1703

But I have a weakness when it comes to food, and that is in the shopping. I go to the store with a plan and a list. Occasionally the store will have some seasonal item – long beans, meyer lemons, kaffir lime leaves – but I never buy it. Because what would I make with it? What other ingredients would I need to use it? I never know, and I’m not willing to make more grocery store trips than necessary, so I miss a lot of opportunities to try new ingredients.

Copy of IMG_1704

Finally I decided there was at least one produce item that there was no excuse not to try, and that is galangal. It’s often compared to ginger. Ginger has a long shelf life, so I assumed that galangal did too. I could buy it one of those rare times when it was available and ignore it for a week or two until I found a recipe to use it in.

Copy of IMG_1708

In the end, I used it in a recipe that doesn’t even require galangal. Cooks Illustrated’s Thai-style chicken soup (their version of tom kha gai) bypasses the need for ingredients that are difficult to find – like galangal – by designing the recipe around readily available prepared red curry paste.

Copy of IMG_1748

The curry paste already has galangal in it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to sweat fresh galangal with the lemongrass, cilantro, shallots and fish sauce. Coconut milk and chicken broth are steeped in the vegetables, and then they’re strained out, leaving you with a sweet, deeply flavored coconut broth, in which thinly sliced mushrooms and chicken are briefly cooked.

Copy of IMG_1753

I’ve made this soup for years, and it is good. Really, exceptionally good. The kind of good where I spend the whole meal saying “oh my gosh this is so good!” (which I’m sure is just as annoying as you’d expect). I don’t think adding fresh galangal made a significant difference in the end product, but that’s okay – I got to play around with a new ingredient, and that makes me almost as happy as this soup does.

Copy of IMG_1762

Printer Friendly Recipe
Thai-Style Chicken Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

6-8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course

I like to skip the serrano chile garnish (and a rarely bother with the scallion and lime garnishes) and add just one chile to the vegetables in step 1. It makes the soup a bit spicy.

This is great as a first course with pad Thai served afterward, or as a simple main dish served over rice.

Cooks Illustrated recommends Chaokoh coconut milk, which is what I’ve always used. For a lighter option, they like A Taste of Thai’s Lite Coconut Milk, but I’ve never been able to find it.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 stalks lemon grass, tough outer leaves removed, bottom 5 inches halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise
3 large shallots, chopped
8 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves, chopped coarse
3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk, well-shaken
1 tablespoon sugar
½ pound white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and sliced on bias into ⅛-inch-thick pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 teaspoons red curry paste (Thai)

Garnish:
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 serrano chiles, sliced thin
2 scallions, sliced thin on bias
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until just shimmering. Add the lemon grass, shallots, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon fish sauce; cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are just softened, 2 to 5 minutes (vegetables should not brown). Stir in the chicken broth and 1 can of the coconut milk; bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the flavors have blended, 10 minutes. Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids in the strainer. Rinse the saucepan and return the broth mixture to the pan.

2. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Stir the remaining can of coconut milk and sugar into the broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, add mushrooms, and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until no longer pink, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove soup from heat.

3. Combine lime juice, curry paste, and remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce in small bowl; stir into soup. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro, chiles, and scallions. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Copy of IMG_1757

chicken empanadas

Copy of IMG_1318

Dave got yelled at over these empanadas. I’m not much of a yeller normally; I’m more of a silent treatment and glower type of person. But there was no time for that; action needed to be taken immediately.

Copy of IMG_9781

It’s all because I made the filling a couple of days before I planned to form and bake the empanadas. The filling isn’t the most simple thing to make. There’s all kinds of chopping, browning, simmering, and meat shredding. And I was a little short on chicken, so I didn’t end up with as much filling as I’d hoped.

Copy of IMG_9780

That night, Dave needed to heat something up for himself for dinner, so I told him there was some extra brown rice with black beans in the fridge. I walked away for a few minutes, and when I came back, he had dumped my precious empanada filling onto a plate, microwaved it, and was scooping it up with a fork.

Copy of IMG_9973

Hey, guess what there is none of in this filling? 1) Brown rice. 2) Black beans.

“Damn!” he exclaimed. “This is good!”  That’s when I yelled, because I just needed him to stop eating it right away.

And then he was so apologetic and I felt like a jerk. He kept saying, “It really was tasty!” as if that was supposed to make me feel better about it.  Yes. I know it’s tasty.  I spent some good time making sure it was.

Copy of IMG_9987

And what can you do to make something so delicious even better? Wrap it in pastry and bake it until it’s browned and flaky and crisp. Oh wow, these are good. And apparently that’s true whether they’re wrapped in pastry and baked or just dumped onto a plate and microwaved.

Copy of IMG_1331

One year ago: Comparison of 2 chocolate cake recipes
Two years ago: Cream cheese chocolate chip cookies (and my very first blog entry)

Printer Friendly Recipe
Chicken Empanadas (adapted from Smitten Kitchen and epicurious)

Makes about 18 empanadas

I didn’t actually measure anything in the filling. I had to leave the olives out because Dave hates them.

As I formed each empanada, I put it in the freezer while I worked with the rest. That way the dough didn’t get too soft and it baked up flaky.

After forming the empanadas, I baked about half of them immediately. I froze the rest for a couple of months, then baked them straight from the freezer. They were perfect.

Dough:
4½ cups (21.6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 large eggs
⅔ cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Filling:
3 whole chicken legs, including thighs (2 to 2¼ pounds total)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, halved lengthwise, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
⅓ cup (1½ ounces) finely diced Spanish chorizo
½ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (not hot)
¼ cup chopped pitted green olives
¼ cup golden raisins
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Egg wash:
1 egg
water
salt

1. For the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl; blend in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-sized butter lumps. Beat together the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add it to the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated. The mixture will look shaggy. Turn out the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather it together, kneading gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together. Form the dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. For the filling: Pat the chicken dry and season it with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then add the chicken, skin-side down. Cook it without moving for about 3 minutes, until dark golden brown, then turn it and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.

3. Add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves to the skillet and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chorizo and paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the olives, raisins, wine, and broth and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Return the chicken to the skillet along with any juices accumulated on the plate, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, turning the chicken once, until the chicken is tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.

4. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate. The sauce remaining in the skillet should be the consistency of heavy cream; if it isn’t, briskly simmer until it’s slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and coarsely chop the meat. Stir the chicken back into the sauce. Discard the bay leaves and season the filling with salt and pepper. Let the filling cool for 30 minutes, uncovered.

5. To form and bake the empanadas: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking pan with a parchment paper or a silicone mat. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces and from each into a disc. Keeping remaining pieces covered, roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).

6. Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling onto the center of each round of dough and fold the dough in half, enclosing the filling. Press the edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or the tines of a fork. Transfer the empanada to the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. You might have extra dough.

7. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush the empanadas with the egg wash, then bake one sheet at a time until the empanadas are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Copy of IMG_1320

buffalo chicken pizza

Copy of IMG_0390

I’m not experienced in the ways of the buffalo wing. I generally find them…well, let’s just say that the ratio of meat to gross animal parts isn’t high enough for my liking, what with the skin and bones and weird tendony whatever bits. The sauce is good though!

IMG_0365

A quick internet search indicated that there are several directions you can go with buffalo chicken pizza. Options for the pizza’s sauce include regular tomato sauce, blue cheese (or ranch) dressing, buffalo sauce, and skipping a sauce altogether. Some recipes use mozzarella and some skip it or use cheddar. I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never even eaten buffalo chicken pizza before.

Copy of IMG_0368

I eventually decided to use ranch dressing as the sauce, but I made my own and kept it pretty light. I just mixed up a bit of buttermilk (or plain yogurt) with mayonnaise and added some basic seasonings. It added a welcome tartness, plus the soothing dairy balances the spicy chicken.

Copy of IMG_0377

On top of the sauce, I layered the buffalo sauce-coated shredded chicken, a skimpy amount of mozzarella, enough blue cheese to taste without it being overpowering, and some red onions, which caramelized in the oven and contributed sweetness.

Copy of IMG_0384

This is most definitely the best buffalo chicken pizza I’ve ever had! And I’m pretty sure that isn’t just because it’s the only one I’ve had. Everything is in such a nice balance – the spice heat, sweet onions, tangy dressing, stinky blue cheese. And you know what’s thankfully missing? Bones and skin and weird tendony whatever bits. Score!

Copy of IMG_0394

One year ago: Gallitos (Costa Rican Breakfast Tacos)

Printer Friendly Recipe
Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Serves 3-4

You can really make the shredded chicken however you want. If you just want to poach a boneless skinless chicken breast, that’s probably easier, and if you have leftover rotisserie chicken or something, that will work too. This is just how I like it. Also feel free to skip the brining; I don’t think it makes a huge difference here since there are so many other flavors, but it was easy and I had time, so I did it.

If you’d like more spice, stir some hot sauce (hotter than Frank’s, like Tabasco) or a small pinch of cayenne into the buffalo sauce.

1 large bone-in skin-on chicken breast (about 12 ounces)
salt
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup Frank’s hot sauce
½ teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
pinch of sugar
pinch of garlic powder
2 ounces (½ cup) mozzarella, shredded
1 ounce (¼ cup) blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup red onion or scallions, diced very fine
12-16 ounces pizza dough (one third of a recipe calling for about 4 cups of flour), stretched out to 9-12 inches

1. For the chicken: Stir 2 tablespoons salt into 2 cups cold water until it dissolves. Add the chicken; refrigerate for 30 minutes, then remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry. Adjust an oven rack to the middle-low position and heat the oven to 450ºF. Heat a small oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan; place the chicken breast in the pan skin-side down. Cook without moving until well-browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and move the pan to the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken measures 160ºF or the juices run clear when small cut is made in the chicken. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove and discard the skin (or eat it, because it’s crisp and delicious!) and shred the meat with your fingers or two forks. (If you’ve used good chicken, brined it, and pan-roasted it like this, I dare you not to resist stealing bites of the shredded chicken. It’s delicious.) Increase the oven temperature to 500ºF.

2. For the buffalo sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar, hot sauce, and vinegar. Mix the sauce with the shredded chicken.

3. For the white sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk or yogurt, mayonnaise, sugar, garlic powder, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

4. Assemble the pizza: Place the pizza dough on a wooden paddle that’s been liberally coated with cornmeal. (Or use parchment paper instead of the cornmeal, or the back of a baking sheet instead of the paddle.) Spread the white sauce evenly on the pizza dough; top with the chicken, then the cheeses, and finally the onions.

5. Bake the pizza for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is browned. Let the pizza rest about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Copy of IMG_0389

crockpot chicken broth

Copy of IMG_7438

Once I started to get a reputation as someone who was into cooking, I realized that there were certain basics that I’d better master. The first step was chocolate chip cookies, and although it took me a while, I eventually learned how to consistently make them how I like them. (This was before I muddied the waters.) Chicken broth is a savory basic that, until now, I hadn’t quite figured out.

Copy of IMG_6995

I had specific requirements for the chicken broth recipe I would eventually settle on. Most importantly, it had to be easy. I don’t want to be hacking at raw chicken bones or fussing over the stove. And not just easy, but flexible. It also had to be cheap. Obviously, it needed to taste good.

Copy of IMG_7001

I’ve played around with a few recipes before this, and while the results of those didn’t get me excited, I did learn enough to be pretty sure that this would work.

All I did was buy the cheapest cut of chicken my store sells, dump the pieces straight from the package into the crockpot insert with an onion, a bay leaf, and salt, then fill the pot with as much water as would fit. I turned the crockpot onto high for a couple hours, to get the chicken through the bacteria-friendly temperature range as quickly as possible, then reduced the heat to low and let the mixture simmer away for a day or so. The whole process took about 10 minutes of effort and cost $4.

Copy of IMG_7009

The more time-consuming part is packaging the broth up for storage once it’s made. This might be easier for me if I had a bigger strainer and more space, but usually straining liquid ends up being a mess for me. I simplified it by removing the chicken legs from the liquid first and setting them aside, then straining the smaller particles out with a fine-mesh strainer.

Copy of IMG_7145

One of the trickiest parts of making stock is something you might not think about, but you definitely should – cooling it through the “danger zone” of bacteria growth (40-140F) as quickly as possible. If you simply took your bowl of freshly-strained hot stock and put it in the refrigerator, it will take hours to cool, plus it will heat up everything else in the fridge. Instead, I actually let it set, unstrained, still in the slowcooker insert, for several hours after turning the heat off. The temperature had cooled from about 200F to 160F (still significantly hotter than bacteria prefer) when I started the straining process. Then, I strained the liquid straight until a bowl that I’d previously added 2 cups of water to and then frozen – so not only was I adding ice, but the container was plenty cold. The liquid cooled to approximately room temperature in about 5 minutes, and I was happy to let the fridge do the rest.

Copy of IMG_7139

So putting it together was super simple. Straining it and packaging it was relatively easy. It’s flexible – that 24 hours could easily be extended to 36 hours, and I think any chicken part would work. I avoided the main “danger zone” issues. As an unexpected bonus, the meat on the chicken legs was still fairly tasty, so I shredded that and stored it in the freezer. And, most importantly, the stock was great! Storebought chicken broth tastes like chicken broth, which is a flavor I like, but this homemade chicken stock tastes like chicken, which is pretty nice too!

Copy2 of IMG_7223

One year ago: Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese

Crockpot Chicken Stock

Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups)

If leaving the slow-cooker on high for a couple hours in the beginning is inconvenient, start with boiling water, then just cook on low for about 24 hours.

Okay, so I don’t really remember how much water I used initially. I have a 5-qt slowcooker, and I filled it just about to the brim with water. My estimate of 6 cups could be totally off. I’m sorry.

4 pounds chicken legs, bone-in, skin-on
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf
6 cups water (or as much as fits in your slow-cooker)
2 cups water, frozen

1. Combine everything except the ice in a slow-cooker insert. Turn the slow-cooker onto high for 1-2 hours (the longer end of that range is better) or until the liquid starts to simmer, then turn the heat to low and continue to cook for 24 hours or so.

2. After about 24 hours, turn the slow-cooker off and remove the chicken legs. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl, and strain the remaining stock into the bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the ice to the liquid. Refrigerate for several hours, until the fat hardens at the top of the liquid. Use a spoon to remove the fat.

Copy of IMG_7437

chicken artichoke pesto calzones

copy-of-img_2248

I hardly ever cook large roasts of meat, but when I do, I find like I like the leftovers even more than the original meal. I had lots of fun after Thanksgiving, and found that pot roast makes an amazing soup and sandwich. And roast chicken, to be honest, hardly ever impresses me served plain with dinner, but once it’s cooled and mixed with mayonnaise for some chicken salad, I am one happy camper.

copy-of-copy-of-img_2225

This time, though, I forwent the mayonnaise for something more interesting. I happened to come across a recipe for chicken artichoke pizza when I had shredded roast chicken, artichokes, and pizza dough in the freezer. I was practically forced to make it. Plus it sounded delicious.

copy-of-img_2230

I made calzones instead of pizza mostly just because I hadn’t made them in a while, but I do think that the sizable chunks of shredded chicken that I wanted to use would be more appropriate in a calzone. Calzones, though, are undoubtedly more work than pizza. Instead of rolling out one round of dough for every 2-3 people, you’re rolling out one per person, and once the ingredients are added, the edges need to be crimped.

The extra work was worth it for me, because I really enjoyed these calzones. Pesto, chicken, and artichokes are a great combination, and it can only get better with cheese.

copy-of-img_2253

One year ago: (Almost) No-Knead Bread

Chicken Artichoke Pesto Calzones (ingredients adapted from Stefany’s pizza, which is adapted from allrecipes; calzone method adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 8

I used mozzarella because I had it, but I think fontina would be even better.

2½ pounds pizza dough (a full recipe of this one would be perfect)
1 cup pesto
1 cup frozen artichokes, defrosted and roughly chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella or fontina cheese
olive oil for brushing

1. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, set a pizza stone on the oven rack, and heat the oven to 500 °F (260°C) for at least 30 minutes. Turn the risen dough out onto an unfloured work surface. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Gently reshape each piece of dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and let the dough rest at least 15 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

2. Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the other pieces covered, stretch and pull the dough into a 7- to 8-inch round. (I don’t like to roll pizza dough, but I suppose you could if you prefer.) Set it aside while you stretch out the remaining rounds of dough. You’ll want to form and fill just four at a time, and then work on the other four while the first set bakes. (Cooks Illustrated stacks the rounds with squares of parchment paper in between; I like to use a kitchen towel.)

3. Spread 2 tablespoons pesto onto each round of dough, leaving about a 1-inch border around the edge. Divide the toppings evenly between the eight dough rounds, forming a pile in the center of the bottom half of each dough round and leaving a 1-inch border uncovered.

copy-of-img_2236

4. Fold the top half of the dough over the filling-covered bottom half, leaving ½-inch border uncovered. (The photo above shows how the dough doesn’t overlap all the way. Look at the left half of the photo, where the dough isn’t crimped yet.) With your fingertips, lightly press around the silhouette of the filling and out to the edge to lightly seal the dough shut.

5. Beginning at one end of the seam, place your index finger diagonally across the edge and gently pull the bottom layer of the dough over the tip of your index finger; press into the dough to seal. (Hopefully the same picture  helps illustrate this.) Repeat the process until the calzone is fully sealed.

6. With a pastry brush, brush the tops and sides of the calzones with olive oil. Carefully transfer the calzones to parchment paper; slide the calzones on the parchment onto a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet, then slide the calzones with parchment onto the hot pizza stone, spacing them evenly apart. Bake until the calzones are golden brown, about 11 minutes; use a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet to remove the calzones with the parchment to a wire rack. Remove the calzones from the parchment, cool 5 minutes, and serve. While the first batch of calzones bakes, form the second batch and bake them after removing the first batch from the oven.

copy-of-img_2245

crispy baked chicken strips

copy-of-img_9435

My sister does once-a-month-cooking, so once each month (or a little longer), she and her husband spend a good portion of the weekend stocking their freezer with easily-reheatable food. I don’t think I’m cut out for this. For one thing, when she was planning her last cooking fest, I advised her to split up the cooking over several nights, and then it wouldn’t take up so much of her weekend. Which pretty much defeats the purpose, because if you’re going to cook every night, you might as well just be making dinner.

copy-of-img_7480-a

Also, I have a tendency to hoard food in my freezer. I get it in my head that I can’t possibly use the lasagna or potstickers or chili in my freezer, because then what if I have some sort of dinner emergency one night and need something super easy? Not that this has ever been an issue.  Still, whenever I make a meal that takes well to freezing, I make extra and put some in the freezer. These chicken strips are perfect for storing in the freezer.

copy-of-img_7482

Also, they’re delicious. The coating, made from cornflakes, is crunchy and a little sweet, and the chicken is moist and seasoned from its brine. The strips, after being dipped in flour, butter, and cornflake crumbs, are baked, so there’s no frying mess to deal with and hopefully they’re a little less fattening (except for the whole dipped in butter thing, of course).

copy-of-img_9423

They’re so good, in fact, that even the extras that were stored in the freezer didn’t last too long. They were right in front, so every time I opened the freezer, I was reminded of how good these are. I couldn’t resist them long.

copy-of-img_9434

One year ago: Fish Tacos – we’ve had this for dinner twice in the last two weeks

Crispy Baked Chicken Strips

Serves 4

To freeze these, spread them on a baking sheet (without the rack) after coating and before baking. Place the pan in the freezer and chill for about half an hour, until mostly firm. Transfer the strips to freezer bags. When ready to cook, defrost them and continue with step 4 of the recipe.

¼ cup table salt
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
¼ cup flour
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups finely crushed corn flakes cereal

1. Dissolve the salt in 1 quart cold water. Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove the cutlets from the brine and pat dry.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400F. Place an oven-safe baking rack in a baking sheet.

3. Place the flour and butter in separate small bowls. Add the crushed cereal to a medium-sized bowl. Dip the chicken pieces in the flour, then the butter, then the cereal. Place the coated chicken strips on the baking rack in the baking sheet.

4. Bake 15-20 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink. Serve.

copy-of-img_9428