Archive for the 'chicken' Category

09
May
13

Japanese Curry with Ground Pork and Apples

Japanese Kare

Japanese Kare

“Did you put apples in that?”

 

“Yes, the image on the box has a picture of an apple, so I figured I would put some of it in the curry.”

 

“Wait, is that a pear you just put in, too?”

 

“I had an extra Asian pear lying around and thought it would be a good idea.”

 

This is how my mom cooks.  She is always inspired by whatever seems logical to her at the time, and then it is a crapshoot as to how the dish actually tastes.  The above conversation took place while she was cooking Japanese curry.  Our Japanese curry always came from a pre-packaged spice mix.  It was the additional ingredients that made it my Mom’s “special recipe.”  To me, she was the original Sandra Lee (but Taiwanese and less intense when it came to “tablescapes”).

 

IMG_4534

Is that the fruit section from the grocery store in the curry?

“I think you put too many apples in this, I can’t tell if I’m eating a potato or an apple.  Wait, is this a salted plum?”

 

My mom’s cooking style is an adventure and a journey.  She starts at a certain idea, picks up characters and ingredients along the way, and finishes with a complete story with a happy ending.  I’ve learned to appreciate her creative focus and now use it myself when I come up with the recipes for this blog. This in-the-moment creativity that defines my mother and my own cooking style is one of the things that my brother always criticizes me for.

 

For him, if it’s the first time that he is cooking a dish for friends or family, he will research a recipe and measure everything out with precision.  It makes sense.  Me, however, I will look at a recipe or two for inspiration and ideas.  I then grab ingredients that I think would taste good and run with it.  My brother gives me crap for it all the time, until he takes his first bite. The complaining then ceases.

 

I’m glad my mom taught me how to cook.  I credit my creativity to her.  If there was an ingredient she liked, something she wanted to try, or a dish she enjoyed from a meal out with the family, she would attempt making it at home.  Even today, she’ll still call me to chat about a dish she just made and how proud she is of the final outcome.   She’ll go into detail about it and I’m usually caught off guard from one or two ingredients.  But in the end, she is happy with result and it sounds like it would work.

 

I now make my Japanese curry with apples in it.  It gives it a subtle, sweet flavor without tasting too sweet.  The blend of spice and smoke go well with the apple.  But, you won’t see me putting a salted plum or pear in it.

I need more curry.

I need more curry.

 

Notes on the dish:  This is Japanese curry or “Kare”.  It was introduced to Japan by the British because of their colonial rule over India.  It’s much milder compared to Indian curry, and delicious with rice.  I made this from scratch, but you can make it with pre-packaged Kare.  I like both versions of the curry.  It’s kind of how I feel about homemade mac and cheese and the Kraft version.  Sometimes the packaged stuff is just as good in its own way.

~stuff

 

2 tbs butter

1 tbs garam masala or a milder curry powder (if you want less hot)

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1 c onion, chopped

1 lb ground meat of your choice

1/2 c carrot, chopped

1 c vegetables, chopped (mix it up with squash, celery, chayote…)

1 medium potato, chopped

1 medium apple, chopped

1 c broth, vegetable or meat

½ c water

salt to taste

 

~steps

 

heat butter with curry powder, tumeric, garlic powder, cumin, and coriander and slightly toast the spices on high heat

 

add onion, ginger, and meat and stir until cooked through

 

stir in all the vegetables and fruit, add broth and water, and turn heat down to medium heat

 

simmer  on medium heat until fully incorporated and curry begins to thicken, about 30 to 45 minutes

 

season to taste and serve over rice

 

-serves 4-

 

30
Apr
13

Browned Chicken Broth

Browned Chicken Broth

Browned Chicken Broth

I believe that it’s important for everyone to know where their food comes from.  It’s one of the things I value, especially when we talk about how food gets from vendor/farmer/producer to kitchen to table.  I’ve learned that if I know where things come from, the impact of their production on the environment, and their impact on our bodies, then I have a deeper understanding, appreciation, and respect for the farmers, the factory workers, the vendors, and the animal.  Most of my education around vegetables and seafood came at a much older age when I graduated college and entered my “responsible” age.  It wasn’t really until the push for organic and local fare that I started to educate myself around food culture, food politics, and general healthy living.  Meat, however, was something that I learned about at a young age.  Thanks to a childhood memory from a trip to Taiwan, I didn’t need to be taught about meat or where it came from …

 

The main form of short distance transportation in Taiwan is done via scooter – slow speed vespas with the shell of motorcycles.  Because of their slow speed, you commonly see parents using them to take their children to school, the local store, or the farmers market down the street.  And since I saw a bunch of kids riding around on them, I too wanted to do that.  It was fun, exhilarating, and free.  Plus, I felt like I was speeding down the country roads of Taiwan, until I saw the jogger next to me run by the scooter that my Aunt and I were riding.  I didn’t care though; it was fun to be able to ride around on a scooter and I found any excuse to get on the back of one of those machines.

 

 

I like to keep dead animals in my freezer...

I like to keep dead animals in my freezer…

One year, my Aunt asked me if I wanted to go with her to run some errands for dinner.  I knew she was going to take the scooter, so I jumped at the chance.  We went to the farmers market and picked up some vegetables from various stands and after a few stops, ended at a vendor who had a bunch of chickens in cages.  “Wait, we are buying a new animal for our farm?  A pet!? awesome!”. I was so excited to see all the chickens; although they were not the baby chicks that I would have melted for, these chickens were still cute in their own way.  In my limited Taiwanese, I was able to understand that she wanted me to pick out a chicken; I assumed that she wanted me to choose our new pet.

 

I inspected each cage carefully.  There were three to four chickens in each cage and I wanted to make sure that

each one had its chance to show off its greatness.  I wanted to make sure I made the right choice so that on future visits to Taiwan, the chicken I selected would be waiting to greet me at the door upon my arrival to the farm. Finally, I picked out the chicken I wanted, pointed to it and said, “那個.”  She leaned over to the man who owned the shop and told him which one I had chosen and with a quick thrust, his hands grabbed my chicken by its legs and pulled it out of the cage.  I had a feeling that something got lost in translation, especially when I saw him pull a sharp blade out of his pocket I knew that I the fate I had pictured for little “Wilmur” was no longer the happy ending I had planned.  Within minutes the chicken had its neck slit and was thrown into a large barrel to quickly go to “sleep.”  I was in shock.

 

Once the chicken stopped moving in the tub, I thought the nightmare was finally over.  But I was wrong.  The vendor then reached in and grabbed the chicken and put it in a tub that I can only describe as a giant washing machine with an exposed window on the top.  In went the chicken , the machine was turned on and around went the chicken.  Every cycle of the tumbler I would see the chicken through the opening and with each turn there seemed to be less feathers on the body.  Six turns later, the chicken was naked, and ready for the final stage.  I think my Aunt finally realized what was going on, it was probably obvious; my mouth was wide open, no more color in my face.  She distracted me (although too late) as the vendor cleaned the chicken and packed it up.  She then put me on the back of her scooter and we rode back to the house and that night I ate “Wilmer”.

 

Events like this have taught me a lot of things.  I learned that day that “Scott, let’s get a chicken” has many meanings.  I also learned too have a better appreciation for animals now. It has even taught me to respect the animals that we eat and all of the parts of the animal.  It has taught me to respect the work that butchers and farmers go through.  It has also taught me that I need to learn Taiwanese better.

 

~stuff

the bones of 1 chicken

1 tsp thyme, dried

2 tbs canola oil

1 tsp oregano, dried

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper, ground

1 tsp rosemary, dried

1 tsp thyme, dried

1 head of garlic, split

2 medium carrots, rough chopped

3 celery stalks, rough chopped

1 medium onion, rough chopped

4 whole shitake, dried

3 qt water

salt and pepper to taste

 

~steps

preheat oven to 375°f

toss bones with thyme, oil, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary until fully covered

roast bones on baking sheet until fully browned, about 30 minutes

transfer all contents into a large stock pot and cover bones with water, about 3 qts

add carrots, celery, onion, and dried shitake and turn the stove on low heat

cook broth for at least four hours, until the flavor comes out into the broth

season to taste

**note:  for clear broth, skim off the top of the broth and run through cheese cloth when completely cooled

 

-makes about 4 cups-

19
Mar
13

Part 2: Kung Pao Chicken, Szechuan Style

This is part 2 of my two-part series on Kung Pao Chicken. Last week, I did a radio segment with a friend of mine at WBAI and Asian Pacific Forum. We talked about the history of Chinese Fast Food, specifically Kung Pao Chicken, its origin, and its evolution as it came to the US. I also cooked last week’s Kung Pao Chicken recipe (the Americanized version) and this one (the more authentic). Here is the recipe for that dish. I hope you enjoy it. And if you missed the radio segment, you can listen to it here.

Tongue numbing fun!  Kung Pao Chicken, the right way.

Tongue numbing fun! Kung Pao Chicken, the right way.


I’m not good at moderation when it comes to seasoning. Growing up, the dishes that existed in my life were simple: a small amount of spices and a focus on just the ingredients. The major flavoring component was garlic, scallion, and or ginger. We’d add soy sauce or rice wine, but that was it. Without the addition of spice, everything was minimal, but still delicious. But, don’t get me wrong, I love spice – I love the earthy flavors that come out with the addition of a well toasted spice, the bright flavors that come out of herbs, and the layers of flavors that come with the combination of powders and grinds.

When I began to first play around with different herbs and spices, my brother – my official taste tester – was the unlucky one who had to deal with my heavy hand. Cooking with spices was such a new concept to me; When testing out a new spice, I always wanted to add enough of that particular spice in order to really understand its flavor profile. The three main culprits that I usually over seasoned with were: cinnamon, cumin, and peppercorns.

A few years ago, I made a black bean dish that had cinnamon in it as one of the components to the spice blend. When I was researching Mexican cooking styles, I learned that cinnamon was a common spice used in savory dishes. So when I was experimenting with the recipe, I asked my brother to be a test subject. He gladly accepted the offer. After my brother’s first bite, a look of uncertainty crossed his face:

“Why do these beans taste like cinnamon?”

“Good, you can taste the secret ingredient!”

“It’s all I taste, why did you put so much of it?”

“I wanted to make sure you tasted it, why? It’s not subtle?”

“Um…no”

Ok, fine. I’m not good at moderating my use of new spices. A similar interaction happened with cumin, too. However, this time, I used way too much of it while cooking, to the point where the whole house smelled like it. Normally, I would enjoy having the aroma from various spices fill the air, but this was a little too pungent. My brother likened it to a room full of Oregon hippies jazzercising with Richard Simmons. And, I do have to admit, the house did have a special funk that only the strongest deodorant could have fixed.

Unfortunately, because of me, my brother now hates cinnamon in savory dishes and anything with cumin in it

I think I realized my problem with over spicing when Szechuan Peppercorns were finally allowed into the States. From the 1960’s to 2005, the FDA banned the import of Szechuan Peppercorns; so, when I finally got my hands on some, I was destined to pull out every flavor that I could from it. I tried to make a braised beef noodle soup dish and wanted it to have the same spiciness that I had while in Taiwan. So, why not add some of that beautifully mind (and tongue) numbing peppercorns. Now, for folks who don’t know much about this spice: the pepper has this bright citrus and earthy flavor. But, the best part is the numbing effect that happens when you eat the peppercorn. It’s a slight zing to the tongue that makes everything fun to eat. Based on the amount that you use, the zing can last anywhere from a few seconds to half a minute. Key phrasing there is “based on the amount that you use.” I, however, was super excited to have access to these beautiful things and began to throw them in by the handful. My thought process? If they aren’t spicy then I might as well put a bunch in. Oops. My brother was upset that he couldn’t taste his dish, and I couldn’t respond, because I was drooling from all the numbing.


~stuff

3 c diced chicken, I used thigh meat

4 cloves garlic, sliced or grated

4 tbs soy sauce

4 tbs rice wine

2 tbs rice flour

2 tbs oil, canola or vegetable

1//4 c raw cashews

6 dried Chinese chili peppers

2 tbs Szechuan peppercorn

1//4 c scallion, minced

~steps

toss chicken with garlic, 3 tbs soy sauce, 3 tbs of the rice wine, and the rice flour and let sit for ten minutes

heat oil in a hot wok on high heat

toast cashews, chili pepper, and peppercorns in oil until fragrant, less than a minute

add chicken with marinade and stir constantly until almost cooked through, 2 minutes

pour the rest of the soy sauce and rice wine in the wok with the scallions and toss until fully cooked through, about 4 more minutes

-serves 4-

12
Mar
13

Part 1: Kung Pao Chicken, Chinese American Style

Last week I did a radio segment for a friend of mine. We talked about the history of Chinese Restaurants, impact of immigration on food, and how Asian American food got its start. Well, I covered as much of the subject as I can within the limitations of a 17 minute segment. As a treat, I decided to make her Kung Pao Chicken the American way and then the actual Szechuan way. Here is the recipe of the first of the two part Kung Pao Chicken series that I will be doing. Next week, I’ll share the “authentic” recipe on my site. Also, if you’re curious as to what my radio voice sounds like, you can listen to the segment here.
Someone looks hungry...

Someone looks hungry…

 

“Does this mean I have to grow boobies?”

“Do you want to have viewers on your brb-eating YouTube site?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, this woman is just like you: young, attractive, likes to cook asian food, and likes to dance. Plus she has over 20,000 subscribers.”

“Yeah, but she has boobs, a low cut top, and ‘interesting’ camera angles.”

“We can get you low cut tops and I can shoot interesting angles.”

“It’s not the same.”

“And we can get you boobies.”

I was doing research for my video posts with my friend. She had agreed to help me film a few videos, teach me about basic editing and camera control, and direct me to feel more comfortable in front of the camera. She suggested we watch YouTube videos and, in the end, we found ourselves spending hours watching all sorts of Chinese cooking tutorials. My favorite vlogger was this woman who was cooking with rather large melons [think watermelons]. And, I’m not talking about the fruit.

From our YouTube research, I realized there is a select handful of dishes most commonly cooked. There appears to be a large need to know how to make things like fried rice and sweet and sour anything and egg rolls, not to mention the large number of kung pao chicken recipes. There were so many variations of the dish, and it was interesting to learn what folks’ take on a classic Chinese American dish was. Ingredients included everything from the stereotypical (water chestnuts, cabbage, and soy bean sprouts) to the exotic (pineapple chunks, soda, and ketchup. But, the recipes that really caught my attention were the “traditional” Chinese American versions. They reminded me of the trips I would take to the big box American chain restaurants, in particular, one that had an extensive cheesecake menu and was the “cool” place to go with friends before high school formal dances.

On the menu, there were always a few “exotic” dishes to give it that upscale feel, most being inspired by the Asian culture, i.e. Chinese Chicken Salad, Avocado Spring Roll, Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Roll. I remember a Kung Pao Chicken linguine on the menu that was a pretty popular selection amongst our group of friends, and I am ashamed to say, it was one of mine as well. It was a standard chicken dish smothered in brown gravy and then served over a bed of pasta. Sadly, it’s not on the menu anymore, but I’ve been able to create a dish that is similar and just as tasty.

Depending on your preference, this dish can be made without the noodles and instead served over rice. If you want to make this vegetarian and use tofu instead, remember to switch out the Chinese oyster sauce with Chinese mushroom sauce. I promise, this dish is going to taste familiar. Just like how your grandma used to make it at Panda Express.

~stuff
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 c chicken breast, cubed
2 tsp corn starch or rice flour
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 medium zuchini, diced
2 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs water
1 cup roasted cashews
minced scallion, optional

~steps

heat a wok on high heat with 2 tbs oil
coat chicken with 1 tsp of the starch or flour
brown chicken in wok, and stir, about two minutes
add vegetables sautee until tender, about two minutes
add cashews and stir
mix sugar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, and the rest of the flour in another bowl
pour in sauce and mix until well coated and sauce thickens, about two minutes
serve over rice or pasta and top with scallion for garnish

-serves 4-
13
Jan
13

Day 11: Korean Style Roasted Chicken

Gochugaru Roasted Chicken

Gochujang Roasted Chicken

My housemates on the second floor inspired this dish. I may have shared with you in a past post, but I live in a special situation where everyone in my building is a friend or family member of mine. On the third floor you have my brother and sister in law, second floor are our friends from before we all lived together, and then first floor is my closest friend from college and myself. Or, as my roommate likes to call it: Uptown, Midtown, and Downtown. Together we make up a dysfunctional commune of eaters, activists, acupuncturists, techies, creatives, students, and drinkers. The first and last reside Downtown.

It is because of my friends on Midtown that I was introduced to so many Korean flavors and dishes. There have been many times that I would visit the second floor for lunch and dinner and they would share a variety of Banchan made by them or their mother. It was an awesome experience and opened my eyes to the complexities of Korean flavors and the thought that goes into creating a well-rounded meal of small sides. It also made me discover what an abundance of kimchi in one’s diet will do to a human’s plumbing system. No, seriously, it was like three weeks straight of just kimchi. I think I may have discovered the new celebrity cleanse.

Second floor also taught me about the amazing qualities of one of the most important condiments in a Korean kitchen: Gochujang. This delightful and bright paste is made from fermented soybean, rice, salt, and chili peppers. The rice and soybean in the beautifully red paste imparts sweetness from the fermentation process of the starch. The process of creating gochujang is very similar to creating miso paste, with the addition of chili powder. A paste of soy bean and rice is left out to ferment in giant jars that are laid out in the in sun. One of the main different between the two pastes is the addition of spice to the Korean version. After it’s introduction to Koreans in the late 16th century by the Europeans, chili was added to the paste to create one of the staples of Korean kitchens. If you can’t get Gochujang, you can substitute it with red miso paste and chili sauce mixed together. It’s not going to be the same, but it will get the general flavors for this chicken recipe.

You can grill the chicken if you would rather have that charred flavor to it, just make sure it is on medium high heat and extend the cooking time to ensure the chicken is cooked through.

~stuff

1 5lb chicken, broken down

½ c gochujang

2 tbs soy sauce

3 tbs sesame oil

1 c scallion, minced

4 cloves garlic, sliced

3 tbs sugar

½ c onion, minced

1 tsp gochugaru (Korean chili powder)

2 tsp salt

~step

mix all ingredients in a bowl and marinade for at least 3 hours, better if you can do it overnight

preheat oven to 450°f

place chicken pieces on a roasting pan and roast for 30 min, or until the meat is cooked through

-serves 4 to 6-

07
Jan
13

Day 5: Anchovy and Chicken Fried Rice

Anchovy and Chicken Fried Rice

Anchovy and Chicken Fried Rice

When I was in college, none of my apartments where within walking distance to any grocery stores, so I ended up eating out a lot or relying on the generosity of my friends with cars.  Although a significant amount of the week was spent on dining out, there where times that I, being a mature and responsible college student, would stay home to study.  All right, let’s be honest, I was just trying to recover from the hang over.  Regardless of the reason for me staying home, I had to find creative ways to make sure that I had food to cook.

Chicken

I usually had a whole roasted chicken in my fridge that I would get from the supermarket whenever I had access to a car. The chicken was a great discovery because I realized that:

1. I didn’t have to cook a whole chicken

2. I could enjoy it as is, but also turn it into a sandwich, soup, pasta, or stir fry

3. That I can pretend that I cooked a whole chicken when I was making dinner for friends

4. If I am hung-over, roasted chicken taste like the sweet ambrosia from the Gods.

Rice

 

Rice was easy.  On campus, we were lucky enough to have a Panda Express.  Well, lucky for me, but not for my clothing size.    There where times that I would order Panda Express for lunch on a daily basis for months on end.  It was even better when, as the Co-Director of the Asian Pacific Student Union, I was munching on a bowl of fake, exploitative Chinese food in our offices and trying to promote the Asian American experience on campus.  But, their “Orange Chicken” was delicious.  Especially paired with the “Green Beans in Black Bean Sauce”.  Plus, you can order a small container of white rice to go. Which was necessary to have at home.

Eggs

Next to campus we had a café that would serve Mexican style breakfast.  Did you know that there is this beautiful dish that involves tortilla chips, cheese, red sauce, chicken, and eggs?  It’s essentially a nacho dish and no one would judge you for eating it for breakfast, because it had an egg on it.   This is where I learned the beauty of “Chiliaquiles”.  The best part of this place was that they where so close to my apartment that I could call and order chilaquiles and a side of scrambled eggs, hobble over in my sunglasses and hung- over state to pick it up, and then enjoy them back at home to “study”.  Plus, why wouldn’t you want to eat something like tortilla chips smothered in enchilada sauce and chicken?

Anchovies/Salted Fish

Anchovies where always the trickiest to find and is not a common ingredient that is just lying around campus.  However, one night when I was ordering a pizza for delivery, it occurred to me.  Can I order anchovies to go?  The answer is “yes”!  During the early 2000’s, online pizza ordering was becoming a normal thing, and I realized that I could order a pizza with a side of anchovies without dealing with the person over the phone and the awkward request for anchovies on the side.  However, once the delivery person came, I had to figure out a way to play it off like the anchovies where a $1.50 joke on a friend and that I would never order a side of anchovies normally.  I must have used that excuse a dozen times.  I could picture the pizza place as the order came in.

“Here comes that anchovy order for Scott again.”

“Man, Scott is really boring, playing the same joke on his friend over and over again.”

“Maybe he just likes anchovies?”

“Nah, then he would just buy his own jar of anchovies.”

“True”

Now that I think of it.  After this whole treasure hunt, I could have just purchased the anchovies, rice, and eggs at the store while I was picking up the whole roasted chicken.  But, you know, this is much more fun.  It made me feel like one of my ancestors from yore.  I felt like I was participating in the annual hunt for mini salted and oil packed fish and pre-roasted whole chicken and their young: scrambled eggs, while gathering cooked rice along the brambles of my cave.  Call me a modern day cave man.

This dish is based on one of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes: Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice.  It’s a beautiful blend of salty, nutty, fishy, and chicken flavors.  Ok, the last description was more of a noun, but the chicken is more of a flavor aspect to the dish then a main component but you can add more chicken if you want.

Check out the “Fried Rice 101” post for more information on fried rice.

~stuff

3 medium eggs, scrambled (if already cooked, then that’s cool)

2 tbs oil

8 anchovies fillets

1/2 cup roasted chicken, shredded

1 medium shallot sliced

¼ cup scallions, minced

3 cups leftover rice, separated

1 tbs soy sauce

2 tsp black pepper

~steps

cook eggs in 1 tbs oil on high, remove and set aside when cooked through

sautee shallots, anchovies, chicken, and scallions in the rest of the oil in a wok or deep pan on high heat

add rice and toss until fully coated and heated completely through, 3 to 4 minutes

pour the soy sauce and pepper to the rice and stir until fully mixed

-serves 6-

03
Jan
13

My 100th Post and a Blogging Marathon: 30 in 30 days

A new look for the new year?

A new look for the new year?

It’s a new year, and lucky for me, means I don’t have to make any resolutions for another month.  On the flip side, I now only have a month to get my Dragon List completed before the snake rears it’s head on the 10th of February.  I will then discover what I have accomplished, what was a lack of judgement on my part, and what was just me losing perspective. (Did I really say that I would read a book in Chinese?)  Once the new year hits, I get to start the cycle all over again and create another list of 29 goals for my 29th year.  Holy. Shit.Because my lists where always private, I would find some way to use a loophole, excuse, or exaggeration as to why I didn’t, couldn’t, or sort of complete a task and be satisfied with the answer.  However, this year I decided to go public with my list, and have already been reminded through emails, calls and conversations of the many things on my list that I still need to do.  It’s like everyone has become my Aunt Martha, hovering over me and piercing a hole in every excuse I throw at her as to why I didn’t want to go to Yoga to do an intense side stretch.  (Note to my friends, I don’t have an Aunt Martha.  It’s not a common Taiwanese name).

However, because of the accountability, I’ve decided to attempt most of the list.  One of my goals this lunar year was to write 54 posts.  There is no excuse why I have not done this, I couldn’t blame a person, the internet, a third party, or my brother’s cat.  (All which would have failed the test of my Aunt Martha if I had one).  So, in order to get close to crossing this one off my list, I’m doing a blogging marathon.  If folks remember a couple of years back I did 30 posts in 30 days.  It was a fun and challenging experience that ended in a well stocked refrigerator, a full roomate, and a bank account that was slightly higher than usual because of the amount of money I was saving from not going out to eat lunch.

So, in honor of the new year, the dragon list, my procrastination, and my 100th post;  I will commit to writing 30 posts in 30 days.

——-

This is my 100th post.  When I first started this blog a few years ago, I was looking for a way to best document the dishes that have been so important to me.  I wanted to have a place where I could keep a list of recipes that are significant; Each one holds a cherished story or memory from my childhood.  I had no idea how much of an impact food would have on me, my childhood, my discoveries, my growth, or my relationships.  Writing for brb…eating has  been an amazing journey; One that I thought would have been finished in a year or so, but it’s clearly developed into a longer adventure that I now consider to me very much a part of who I am.  I’m so glad that I’ve been able to share it with all of you and I look forward to many more to come.  To commemorate my 100th post, I’m revisiting my first blog post, “Chicken Adobo.”  I’ve edited it (my writing has improved so much in the last 100 posts) and updated the recipe (It’s taken me a few years, but I now understand why ingredients are listed in a specific order.) I hope you enjoy and thank you for following me on this journey.

Chicken adobo; not the witch's brew version.

Chicken adobo; not the witch’s brew version.

“I’m not sure it’s suppose to look like that…”

My brother and I stared at the pot of chicken bones bubbling in a tan, creamy, gravy like sauce with bits of chicken pieces floating about.  We had spent over an hour on this dish and had no idea how or what it had turned into.

“It doesn’t look like the Filipino Chicken Adobo we get at the restaurant. It’s suppose to have the look of braised chicken.”  Instead it looked like something only mentioned in fairy tales when describing the witch’s brew.  We tried it, and I continued to question the tough, rubbery texture and flavor of the sauce.  It was a “first time cooking Chicken Adobo” failure, it was also one of the first times that my brother and I cooked together.  Before this, it was rare for my brother and I to ever be able to cook together.  We are 7 years apart which translates to me being home as a kid while he is in college and then us being in separate parts of the country while I was in college and he was being an adult.  Luckily I found my way to New York which has made the two of us even closer as well as many more days of cooking together and more successful attempts.

A few days after the adobo attempt, my brother figured out that what we had made was basically soy mayo with chicken in it.  If it sounds gross, you are right.  It  looked gross too.  The vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar mixed with the protein from the rendered chicken was basically the foundation of a mayonnaise or aioli.  At the time of attempting this dish, my culinary techniques where a little lacking.  I thought that turning something on high meant you where hungry and it would cook faster and that braising was for people with patience.  However, the rolling boil of the liquid  was enough to agitate the protein and fat and essentially mimicked the whisking or shaking that produces mayonnaise.  Oh, so that’s one of the reasons we braise things.

A couple of years later, I asked my friend Holly how her mom made the dish.   She gave me the list of ingredients and the family secret.  Her mom finishes the chicken off in the oven to ensure that it develops a crispy skin and slight glaze.   So with my knowledge of braising and the importance of a slow low heat and now with some insider secret from new Tita, I was able to recreate the Chicken Adobo with my brother.   The flavor was sweet, salty, and tangy.  The vinegar and slow braise allowed the chicken to become extremely tender and juicy.  The best part was the crisp skin that came from the few minutes that chicken was  in the oven.  To add more sauce, you can reduce the braising liquid down to give it a thicker consistency while the chicken is finishing, or you can skip the oven step all together.

If you have access to cane vinegar, I recommend it.  You can get it from most Asian stores.  It has a slightly sweet quality to it, but white vinegar is a good substitute.

~stuff

2 lb chicken (I like to mix wings and drumsticks)

1 tbs vegetable, peanut, or canola oil

4 large garlic cloves

2 dried chili crushed, or 1 tsp red chili flakes (to taste)

2 bay leaves

3/4 cup soy sauce

3/4 cup white vinegar

1/8 cup sugar

1 stalk of scallions, minced

~steps

sear chicken on high in a large dutch oven or heavy based pot with oil and remove chicken

add chili flakes, bay leaves, and garlic to the pot and sauté until garlic is fragrant and slightly toasted

return chicken and pour soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar and stir to coat

turn down heat to medium low and let simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

remove chicken, put onto baking dish and broil on high until chicken is slightly crispy (4-5 minutes)

reduce the braising liquid and pour over the chicken

garnish with green onions (optional)

-serves 6-

 

05
Jun
12

Mien Salsa – The Condiment of All Condiments

The condiment of all condiments

My roommate, although she won’t admit it, is a great cook. She understands the complexity of Southeast Asian flavors and the discovery of mixing tart, tang, sweet, and spicy. She makes curry, soups, sauces, and egg rolls with such focus and tenacity that if doesn’t taste good to her, she won’t feel it is complete and will refuse to let me try it. She also doesn’t like to waste a thing, even though she learned how to cook from her mother which translates to: cooking to feed an army of boys but for only the two of us. If there are extras and she doesn’t deem it fit to give to others, she’ll spend the next couple of days trying to eat it herself to prevent wasting the food. Yep, she’s one of my favorite home cooks out there and she can run across campus in a pair of stilettos like no other.

Now, all the credit can’t be given to her. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her mom who cooked us a fabulous Christmas meal years ago. It involved hundreds of egg rolls, chicken, vegetarian stir fry (It had ground pork. But, according to her dad, that doesn’t count as meat because it’s seasoning), some noodles, and an amazing little spicy dipping sauce. The sauce was a salsa verde of sorts but South East Asian in style. We’ve now lovingly call it Mien Salsa in our household.

I’ve talked about the history of the Lu Mien community before, but never in-depth. Originally they where a tribe of indigenous people who lived in the southern mountains of China. Once political disputes over land heightened to violence, the Lu Mien (also known as Yao People), were forced into Laotian and Thai territories. About a century later, US forces made its way into a war in Laos and convinced the tribe elders to help them fight alongside them. Once Americans pulled out of the country in 1975, the Laotian government began persecuting and exiling this small minority, eventually sending them out of their land again and forcing them to the western side of the US. [Thank you Wikipedia for making me sound smart.]

It’s interesting to see how centuries of war and displacement changes the flavors and dishes of a certain community. I sometimes imagine a fantastic and romantic story of how a family who grew up eating foods in the high landlocked mountains would eventually be forced to a land rich in spice, heat, and flavors. I would imagine the first time that a child tasted the prick of heat from their first pepper after it was tirelessly beaten by a stone mortar and pestle. Or create a memory of when a mother, after months of traveling and escaping battles and wars, gets her first pungent whiff of fermenting fish sauce and the man, who after years of fighting to protect his land, house, and loved ones, will reunite with his family to see a bucket of fried chicken, cole slaw, mashed potatoes, egg rolls, rice, and this Mien salsa. And it was because of this salsa that the father, with a tear rolling down his cheek, felt that it was all worth it and at home. I’ve been watching way to many overly dramatic family coming of age stories on Netflix. I need some help…

I would classify this sauce as more of a chimmichurri or salsa verde than what most Americans think of when they hear “salsa”. It’s full of heat, tang, aroma, and citrus. It is a crisp refreshing sauce with an earthy and full flavor from the crunch and spice of the dried chili peppers and complexity of the fish sauce. The lime juice helps bring out the citrus of the cilantro and the tartness of the fruit helps mellow out the pungent fish sauce. And the chili adds a great earthy flavor to the whole sauce. And add lots of chili pepper because my roommate says, “it should punch you in the mouth.”.

A note on the recipe: the measurements are a rough estimates and, like many of our mother’s cooking, not meant to be followed exactly. This condiment, which is great with spring rolls, grilled meats, and steamed fish, is more of a personal preference with the ingredients. I know when I make it, I tend to add some agave syrup or honey to add a bit of sweetness to it. My roommate’s version is more of a red sauce with it mostly being dried chilies and a sprinkle of bright green cilantro leaves. Any way you do it, be prepared to have your mouth punched.

~stuff

1 bunch of cilantro, minced

3 whole dried chili pepper, toasted

1 lime, zest and juice

1 tbs fish sauce

1 tsp agave syrup or honey (optional)

~steps

place cilantro and chili peppers in a mortar and pestle and combine the ingredients [if you don't have a mortar and pestle you can break up the chili peppers by hand and place in a bowl]

mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and adjust to taste

set aside the sauce for at least 1 hour

22
Aug
11

Taiwanese Braised Liver

Taiwanese Braised Liver

Taiwanese Braised Liver

One of the things that my parents have always taught me is to try everything. No matter how odd the aroma is or foreign the texture is, my mom and dad would always make me take a bite. I would usually begrudneonly nibble at the first bite and, realizing its pleasures, devour the whole thing  I appreciate that bit of parental wisdom and value it as one of the many life lessons that will always mold my politics and outlook in food. It’s allowed me to respect not only the cultures but also the resourcefulness of people. It’s also taught me that good parenting involves forcing your child to eat things and not have to tell them what, where, or why they are eating it. Come to think of it, I think I just unlocked the key perk of parenting.

 

One of the things that I have come to love because of my parents philosophy on food are offals.  My lack of interest in science helped me in the inability to identify parts of body, nor did I care when my parents told me the name of the protein in Taiwanese.  I just assumed it was a fungus, sea creature, or animal that only existed in Asian areas.  But because of my parent’s rule of don’t ask until you try it rule it didn’t matter when I did find out what I was eating.  Plus, biology was never a strong program in my public school, so I couldn’t even identify what I was eating if I tried.

 

This dish comes from my Aunt Mei, who lives in Chicago. She made this braised liver dish for me a couple of years ago while the family was together in California. It’s delicious. She used beef liver which has a stronger gamey flavor, but pairs amazingly well with the liquid it is cooked in.  The dish is braised in a flavorful combination of sweet, salty, nutty, earthy, and spicy. It’s a common cooking technique in Taiwanese cooking and you will see it with almost all proteins in the homes of Taiwanese aunties, mothers, and grandmother. The base will always consist of soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, ginger, and star anise. Other spices and ingredients may be added based on what each persons grandma uses.

 

I kept mine basic with just the standard stuff because it is what I have on hand. But when I first had this dish, my aunt wanted to use Chinese five spice. Just, about a teaspoon of it makes the flavors more alive if you have it.  I also used chicken liver. There is alot of preparation that comes with beef liver in terms of cleaning and making sure all impurities and liver spots are removed. With chicken, you just soak it in milk over night. This helps draw out all the impurities. It’s what Alton Brown taught me, so I listen. Also, chicken liver is more bite sized, so it is perfect for chopsticks.

 

Serve this with a bowl of rice and some simple veggies stir fried with garlic and you have a meal.  Enjoy.

~stuff

1 lb chicken liver, rinsed

1 cup of milk

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp vegetable oil

5 coins ginger, about ¼ inch thick

4 medium garlic cloves, smashed

½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup rice wine

¼ cup sugar

5 pods of star anise

~steps

soak liver over night in milk and drain

 

heat  oils on high until slightly smoking

 

sauté ginger and garlic until fragrant

 

pour the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, and star anise into pan and stir until well incorporated

 

lower heat to low and add liver, stirring every 15 minutes for about 1 hour, until liver is completely cooked through

 

-serves 4 as side dish-

 

08
Jun
11

pan roasted chicken with orange cognac sauce

pan roasted chicken with orange cognac sauce

...pan roasted chicken with orange cognac sauce...

When I was young, I would only cook with two types of alcohol: wine and beer. And when I say “young”, I’m saying when I was eight. One of the alcoholic beverages, beer, was because I was inspired after watching an interview with Mathew McConaughey where he described, in his sultry southern drawl, how he makes beer butt chicken. The other, wine, is because I’m Taiwanese and Taiwanese people like to use rice wine. Other than that, alcohol has been mostly off limits for me because I was too young to partake in any of it and my parents only drank beer and wine. Could you imagine the conversation between my eight year old self and my parents for some hard liquor to cook with.

In case you needed a visual clue to what I looked like at 8.

Me: Dad, can you buy cognac for me?

Dad: What?

Me: Yeah, cognac. You know, Hennesey, Courvoisier, or Remy Martin?

Mom: What?

Me: Yeah, if not cognac you can just get Brandy. It doesn’t have to be the French stuff or the fancy stuff. I just need VS. XO is too fancy.

Mom: Why?

Me: Because I saw the Frugal Gourmet cook with it.

Dad: You watch too much tv.

I’m glad I didn’t have the conversation, because I just realized that I would have been making my dad buy alcohol for a minor. So, instead of having to make my Dad commit a felony, I just waited until I was of legal age to purchase the stuff.

This was the first dish I ever made with cognac. It’s based on a recipe I saw in a Fine Cooking magazine three years ago. It was delicious and simple but made me feel like an advanced cook. Actually, anything utilizing French ingredients or techniques make me feel fancy, as is evident in my salmon recipe. The thing that really makes the dish is the combination of the booze with the butter. The nuttiness of the butter marries amazingly well with the oakey apple flavor you get from a French brandy. I guess that’s why it’s such a common pairing and so popular in cooking.

The first time I did this, I flamed the sauce. I mainly did it because I was always intrigued with fire as a young child [first sign of a crazy person?] and felt like if I did it as an adult, then it is normal. But there is no reason for it. The heat from the stove will cook out the alcohol, the flame is just for show. But, if you feel like doing it and are in a safe area with fire extinguisher in hand, be all cirque du soleil with it.

This dish is super easy one and doesn’t really require special knowledge or tools. The only thing that requires some planning is the amount of time you need to brine the chicken. Do not skip this step! It’s white meat. Brining makes it tender, yummy, and juicy. Another post is planned to go deeper into brining, and an excuse for me to make some pork chops.

The original recipe called for fennel. I didn’t feel like slicing a whole fennel bulb so I used tarragon instead. It has a slightly anise flavor like fennel but doesn’t require lots of prep or slicing. Just throw it in, let the heat from the sauce do its work and then remove the stalks. Easy peasy.

Enjoy.

~stuff

1½ cup orange juice, pulp free

½ cup water

¼ cup of salt

4 tbs. sugar

half of a medium onion, roughly chopped

2 1 ½ – 2 lb chicken breasts, skin on and whole

2 tbs vegetable oil

¼ cup shallot, minced

1 large orange, supremes (orange segments cut out)

1 tbs butter

2 tbs cognac

2 sprigs of fresh tarragon

~steps

mix orange juice, water, salt, sugar and onion in a large non reactive bowl

add chicken to the brine, and let sit, covered, in refrigerator for at least 3 hours

preaheat oven to 375°f

remove chicken breasts from brine and pat dry

heat oil on high heat in an oven safe pan and brown chicken skin side down until crispy, 5 minutes

flip chicken breasts and roast in oven for 10 minutes, or until fully cooked

remove chicken from pan and let rest

return pan to medium high heat and add shallots and stir until browned

turn heat off and add cognac and slowly bring to a simmer (scrape brown bits off pan while doing this)

swirl butter and tarragon until butter is fully melted and tarragon completely wilts

drizzle sauce over chicken breasts

~serves 2~




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