Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Asian chicken bravo

Why the name? No reason, except that I didn't want to call them nuggets. And having spent 40 years conducting opera and ballet, I am used to the singers and dancers being greeted with “bravo” as they take their curtain calls. In this case what I had in the freezer was a package of 5 good-sized drumsticks. After thawing them, I put them into a brine with a Chinese overtone – Szechuan peppercorns. It isn't actually pepper, and it has a flavor that I find impossible to describe. So I won't try. Some sesame oil and chili/garlic paste in my egg wash continued the Asian theme. This was truly an experiment, as I was making up every aspect of this. I was pleased with the result.

Asian chicken bravo
5 chicken drumsticks
black bean/garlic paste
2 tsp sesame oil, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbs chili/garlic paste
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
breadcrumbs (as much as needed, but do not use flavored ones)
sesame seeds (as much as you wish)

Make a slit in the thick flesh on both sides of the drumsticks. Place them into a container and cover them with brine**. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or longer – I didn't have more time). Before proceeding, rinse and dry them. Remove the skin and then the meat from the bones and remove all cartilage and tendon-like material. Grind in the food processor to a very rough chop. Stir in about 1 Tbs black bean/garlic paste and 1 tsp sesame oil. Form the chicken into balls about 1 ½ times the size of a golf ball. (Best done with wet hands. Refrigerate the balls for a while if you have time. They will set up and be a little easier to handle.

Lace the egg with sesame oil and chili/garlic paste and fish sauce (if using). Mix 2 parts breadcrumbs with 1 part sesame seeds in a wide bowl or on a plate. Dredge the chicken balls in flour, coat with egg and then with the bread and sesame mix.

Preheat the broiler and place an oven rack in the second position from the top. Remember that with most ovens you must leave the door ajar so that the heating element does not cycle on and off. Spray a baking sheet with Pam and place the balls on it. Now you may flatten them with a spatula or with your hand. Spray the tops with Pam. Broil for 3 minutes and turn. Broil for 3 minutes more until cooked through. You'll need to sample one to see if they are done. Serve these immediately.

3 cups water
2 ½ Tbs sea salt
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
½ tsp poultry seasoning

Put this into a bowl and stir until the salt is dissolved. Pour it over the chicken. Brine the chicken for 2-3 hours (more wouldn't hurt).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Po boy - the Spam and Velveeta version

In anticipation of my forthcoming book (don't hold your breath – it will be at least a month), the title of which is expected to be “Back in the Day (when Spam was not a four-letter word and Velveeta was neeta), I share this imaginary recipe with you. It's imaginary in the sense that I did not make it. But I could, just as written below. My instructions are guaranteed to give you an old-fashioned frisson, something akin to the vapors. Before your nose in the air gives you a stiff neck, note the following: the blanching of the Spam changes it in fundamental ways. It removes much of the sodium and some of the fat. In the process it softens the texture of the “meat”. I hope you will view this as whimsy, even though I would eat it in a minute (if I hadn't just had lunch). Those of you of a certain age (that includes moi) may have been served Spam when you were young. No one I know has ever blanched it, and the flavor without that step can be a little aggressive. As for Velveeta, a person could do fondue with it, a person could make a hot compress to put on his/her chest to relieve cold symtoms, a person could probably use it as a depilatory. Nonetheless, it can be a “fun” food. Hey, it ain't much worse than what some folks put on their nachos already. But enough. Let's proceed with the proceedings.
Spam and Velveeta Po Boys (3-4 sandwiches)
12 oz can of Spam
hot sauce
jalapeno, chopped with or without seeds (optional)
Hot dog buns or steak rolls
Velveeta (as needed)
chopped onion
chopped lettuce

Heat a large saute pan of water to boiling. Slice the Spam lengthwise into 6 pieces. Slip it into the water, remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes. Dry on paper towels. Cut into suitable sizes and shapes to go into the sandwiches.

Mix together mayo, mustard, hot sauce, jalapeno (if using) to suit your taste. Spread this sauce on the buns.

In the pan you used to blanch the Spam, fry it lightly now, with or without some oil (if it's non-stick you won't need any). Just get it hot and a little color on it.

In the meantime microwave some Velveeta to a liquid consistency. (Careful, you can get pizza mouth from this.)

Assemble the po boys in whatever order you choose, although I would start with the Spam. After that you are on your own.Write to me about this and tell me you have the cojones to try it.

Otherwise, write to me anyways.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Lost" and flounder

Ok, that's a stupid title. I watched "Lost" once during its first season - then I conveniently lost it. We took a break from potatoes (going back to them in one day for choucroute made with homemade sauerkraut) and had some flounder, broccolini and rice. I never tried this before, but I wanted to kind of do the milanesa-style thing but with some delicate fish. Wasn't sure how it would turn out. A 12 oz. package of frozen flounder on sale gave me the opportunity.

Flounder milanesa
12 oz. flounder filets, thawed if frozen
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water
unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Add the cheese, salt and pepper to the bread crumbs and place them on a wide plate.
Dry the fish thoroughly with paper towels. Dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Dredge in the egg, allowing excess to fall away. Coat with bread crumbs. Place the filets on a wire rack over a plate and refrigerate for at least an hour in order to set up the coating.
Using a large skillet or saute pan, heat 1/8" vegetable oil until very hot. Shallow fry the fish filet (in 2 batches if necessary) for 45 seconds per side. Serve at once.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Shrimp burgers

Not a good photo, but the best I could find for free via Google (I've been camera-less for the last year). In any case, I've made combination shrimp and catfish burgers many times, but just decided to stick with the shrimp.
Start with 10 oz 21-25's. Peel and de-vein them and then slice them in half through where the vein was. Now chop them moderately fine. Shrimp are pretty sticky so it's not a problem for them to hold together while cooking.
Put them in a bowl and mix well with 2 Tbs mayonnaise and 2 Tbs bread crumbs, salt and pepper (and hot sauce if you're in the mood). Form into 2 burgers. Saute in butter for about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thai-style chayote salad

When I went on hiatus over the start of the new year I promised a new green papaya salad when I returned. Well, here it is. I've said before that I haven't located a place to get green papaya here in DC. But I substitute chayote squash (pictured above) and it's pretty much exactly the same result.
The dressing for the salad pretty much consumed my fish sauce, my plain old canola oil, a large jalapeno (seeded and chopped, thank you very much), and lime juice. All in all it tastes darn good. This is really good, if you're of a mind to want it.

Thai-style chayote salad
2 chayote squash
½ small onion, very finely diced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 medium tomato, finely diced
3 Tbs fish sauce (nam pla)
2 Tbs canola oil (or other neutral oil)
1 ½ Tbs chili/garlic sauce
2 large cloves garlic (minced or pressed)
for garnish: chopped peanuts or roasted sunflower seeds
Peel the squash (there's some craggy part you'll need to deal with). Cut it in half and clean it up a bit more with your peeler. Use a grapefruit spoon to scrape out the center portion and then julienne them using your mandoline. Toss in a big bowl with the onion, jalapeno and tomato.
Mix the dressing in a separate bowl, then toss it all together. Top with the nuts when serving. It's good to let this steep in the fridge for a while.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kimchi (don't even consider making this)

Now why would I say "don't even consider making this"? Simple, most of you have never eaten kimchi. Start by going to an Asian market and buying a jar of it. Take it home. Open it. Eat some of it with chopsticks (it tastes different if you use chopsticks). LOL
I have a long history with this cured cabbage concoction. By the way, it's diet friendly (unless you're on a low salt regimen).
I've just decided not to provide a recipe today. There's no point. A person can make kimchi a million different ways. Just Google it. I think it would be safe to make it during Lent. I bought a jar of it yesterday at an Asian market here in DC. Know what? It's terrible. Even the worst kimchi I ever made was better than this.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Here are a few fun photos of tilapia.
I did something radical yesterday. I bought and cooked tilapia. It tastes very good, but there are questions out there about its nutritional value (short on omega 3's e. g.). The same is apparently true of my beloved catfish. Oh well, a person's gotta eat. I did this in the simplest way possible. Butter and a bit of olive oil in a big skillet; paprika, salt and pepper, and then flour on the fish. About 3 minutes per side.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Turkey milanesa

Technically speaking I am probably not using the term “milanesa” entirely properly. I won't try to define it. I just like the word and what I do with chicken, pork, and now turkey, does resemble milanesa. It also resembles Wienerschnitzel. It's a cooking technique that is exquisite in its result (if done the right way). I bought a 6 lb turkey breast a couple of weeks ago. We froze half of it and roasted the other half. It was delicious with a sage pesto Peter made. For this application I removed the skin and sliced it across at about ½ inch intervals. Pound, pound, pound – down to ¼ inch to 1/3 inch.

From here on it's the 3-step dredge. I like to use some paprika along with salt and pepper before dredging in flour, dipping in egg and coating with bread crumbs. 1/8 inch of veg oil in a large skillet must be gotten screaming hot. This is probably the single most important thing about this recipe. The oil should be so hot that you literally only shallow fry the meat for 1.25 minutes per side, drain on a paper towel and serve up immediately.

Have you noticed I did not mention brining? This turkey breast was on sale for about 25% of its original price. It had been injected with brine of a sort. A reasonable compromise I would say.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fun food - rice stick noodles with Arctic char

I'm doing a give-away. In this case everyone gets to be a winner. I have written a small document that includes 100 soups with no more than 5 ingredients. All you have to do to get a copy (via a Word document as an email attachment) is to write to me here: scrout1944@msn.com. This is whimsical and fun. Let me entertain you.

Yesterday I did not feel able to resume blogging. I was ill in the night and most of the day. However, today I was on the mend, back to eating and prepared an eclectic dish for dinner comprised of Asian rice stick noodles, Arctic char, broccoli, and some duck broth. Seasonings were Asian and this endeavor was original and delicious (as in yum yum). It falls under the heading of “make something with what you have.” This is what I call “fun food.” I haven't said this in a long time: all my recipes are for two people unless otherwise designated.

Noodles, vegetables and fish
2 filets of Arctic char, 4 oz each
sesame oil
3 oz rice stick noodles, soaked in hot tap water for 10 minutes, drained and set aside
2 cups broth (chicken, duck or turkey)
frozen peas or edamame, or broccoli florets cut fine (I used a bit of each)
fish sauce to taste
soy sauce to taste
½ tsp miso paste
pinch red pepper flakes to taste
juice of ¼ lemon or ½ lime
2 Tbs finely chopped cilantro

Bring the char to room temperature, rub it lightly with sesame oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and then steam it for 8 minutes. Remove the skin, break into bite-size pieces and set it aside.

Soak the noodles in hot tap water to cover for 10 minutes. Drain.

While the noodles soak, heat the 2 cups broth to a simmer.

Add remaining ingredients to the broth (except juice and cilantro) plus the noodles and bring back to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add noodles.

Serve the noodles and vegetables in large, hot soup bowls with the pieces of char on top, and garnish with the lemon or lime juice and some cilantro.

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