Tag Archives: chicken

Indian-ish feast

A good day's work in the kitchen!

A good day’s work in the kitchen!

It all started when Marc left town for two weeks. There I was on a Sunday night, opening and closing the fridge, asking myself, “What do I want to make?” and coming up with the inevitable answer, “Nothing.” Eventually I took myself out to dinner to a Vietnamese place around the corner and vowed that I wouldn’t let it happen again.

Monday I woke up with a plan. I had to go groceries anyway, and I’d just seen a lovely crock-pot recipe for lamb korma. I found some chicken thighs I decided to use instead of the lamb, but it seemed like the recipe would work regardless. From there, I found myself in a spiral of, “Well, if I’m doing it anyway…”

See, the chicken korma uses half a can of coconut milk. So what to do with the other half? There’s a recipe in The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss that I’ve been meaning to try for a while: coconut cauliflower curry mash. It’s sort of like the cauliflower version of mashed potatoes. It uses half a can of coconut milk. So I picked up a (rather overpriced) cauliflower at the grocery store too.

Of course, the recipe only used about half the cauliflower. So what to do with the other half? Roasting is always a safe bet, so I did that, along with a little garam masala, because I figured I had a theme going.

I also had a bunch of leftover root vegetables from a pot roast stew I made last week, and I figured I really should use them up before they started going bad on me. So I roasted up about two pounds of carrots, also with garam masala, and about a pound and a half of baby white-fleshed potatoes. (This time with thyme, because I like to be contrarian.)

I had about three cups of cut-up butternut squash that I had to use also, and I’d found a nifty recipe for that too. (Hence why I had the thyme on hand for the potatoes.) It wasn’t quite Indian, but what the heck, I felt like trying out the recipe and nothing as obvious as a themed dinner was gonna stop me.

Since I was doing all this work in the kitchen, I figured I might as well fry up the 3/4 of a package of bacon I had lying around, so I cut it into lardons and spent some time pushing it around the pan and draining it when there was too much grease at the bottom. (Probably about four times — there was a lot of grease!)

And, finally, some rice. I had one last tupperware of home made vegetable stock that I used instead of water, and I figured that since I was on an Indian kick anyway, I’d try to add some Indian spices and see how it went. Into the pot went a cinnamon stick, some ground cardamom, a few cloves, and about a half-tablespoon of cumin seeds.

The crock pot chicken korma happened on Monday night and got packaged up around midnight, and all the rest I did over about three hours on Tuesday. (Not counting the 45 minutes of making up my chart of what spices needed to go with which dish, what appliances needed to be in action at what time, and so forth. I may be a geek.) I’d also bought a pumpkin pie at my grocery store on Monday, because I’d never had pumpkin pie before and couldn’t find anywhere to buy just a single slice. So I had about 3/4 of that left.

Suffice it to say, there was a lot of food.

Tuesday morning, I put out the call to my friends, begging them to come over and eat dinner with me. I got four RSVPs, and one of them even brought wine, so we had an absolutely lovely time. The chicken korma was a big hit, and most of the vegetables were gone as well. (Mmm… roast vegetables.) The cauliflower mash was surprisingly tasty, definitely something I’d make again. My only sadness about the veggies is that the potatoes were nice and crispy out of the oven, but had gotten soggy by the time we ate them. So sad…

In any case, a good time was had by all, and I’ve got enough korma and rice leftovers to last me the rest of the week, I think. So… yay! Not sure if I’ll do a big cooking job again before Marc gets home, but you never know.

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Let there be steam! (Steamed chicken and broccoli)

Steamed chicken and broccoli

Steamed chicken and broccoli

The latest in my Rouxbe lessons involved steaming. Today in particular was steamed lemon-garlic chicken with thyme and steamed broccoli with soy and sesame oil.

Since the steamer basket I have is actually kind of dangerous to use — it’s the kind that opens up like a flower, but there’s no easy way of removing it from the steaming pot without risk of burn — I decided to buy myself a present of a new steamer insert for my pots. This involved a bit of running around and a mishap at the store where they’d set aside the wrong thing for me (steamer basket =/= double boiler), but it all worked out in the end. Conveniently, the “universal” steamer basket from Lagostina actually fits two of my pots. This means that I could, say, make rice in my big saucepan and steam the meal in a smaller saucepan. Except that I need the same lid for both jobs. So… pasta it is! Pasta doesn’t need a lid! Yay!

Surprisingly, this was a remarkably simple meal. Prep everything in the steamer basket, put over the water, cover, wait for a while, eat. I put the chicken breasts on top of sliced pieces of lemon (a trick I learned from the Rouxbe lesson on steaming) and then did the shorter broccoli after the chicken was done. I lost quite a bit of steam as it was going, but the steamer basket sits very high above the water, so I could put a lot in and not worry about it all boiling off.

I was worried about the timing for this, but in the end it all worked out. I turned on the burner for the pasta water the same time the chicken started steaming. It boiled around the time the chicken was done (remember how I needed the lid for the steamer?) and the pasta was done right around the same time as the broccoli. I was able to do the broccoli prep while the chicken was steaming and the plating while the broccoli was steaming. Yay for timing!

In this end this was a very tasty meal. Marc and I both enjoyed it very much. Definitely a keeper.

Lemon chicken with pine nuts

Lemon chicken with pine nuts

Lemon chicken with pine nuts

This was my latest Rouxbe recipe, as I’ve started a unit on chicken. The recipe is here. For those who don’t feel like clicking through, the short version is that you marinate chicken legs in olive oil, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Then you make a short stock with the backbones from the chicken legs and a bunch of vegetables. When you’re ready to cook, you caramelize the skin side of the chicken in a hot pan, then finish it up in the oven, and then use the sucs (caramelized bits), onion, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, stock, toasted pine nuts, honey, and cilantro to make a pan sauce. (In the original recipe, there’s supposed to be olives, but I don’t really like olives, so I left them out.)

The end result is extremely tasty, but also takes quite a lot of time, especially making the stock.

I did this recipe over two days, making the marinade and stock yesterday and cooking the chicken today. It took about an hour and a half each day, though admittedly about 5-10 minutes of today was spent dealing with an unrelated spill in the refrigerator that got into and under my vegetable drawer. (Sigh.)

There were a lot of firsts in this recipe for me:

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Pan-fried chicken breast

Friends, I think tonight may have been the first time in my entire life where I walked into the kitchen and felt confident at every single step of the way when I was cooking. This is a major milestone for me.

As I mentioned before, my next Rouxbe lesson was on pan frying. And with my brand-new All-Clad 12″ stainless steel frying pan, I was up for the challenge.

First up: the water test to tell when the pan is ready for the oil. This is probably the coolest thing ever. The idea is that you add a small amount of water (maybe 1/8 tsp) every 15 seconds or so, and it’ll behave differently as the pan heats up. In a cold pan, it’ll just sit there. Eventually, it starts bubbling and evaporating. Sooner or later, it’ll bubble but spawn off tiny beads. And when it’s the perfect temperature, the water will form one mercury-like bead and bounce around the edge of the pan. Fun fact: my new pan takes about 7-8 minutes to heat up on medium heat, using my large burner. Which is much longer than I would have guessed, had I not known about the water test.

I got to feel knowledgeable when Marc was standing next to me and I was doing the water test on the heating-up pan. He saw the water evaporating and said, “I guess that means it’s too hot?” And I was able to say, “Nope! Much too cold!”

I was also able to inform him that, assuming the pan is hot enough, a sticking ingredient will eventually un-stick itself once it’s cooked for a few minutes, which he did not know and which I had not known before I took this module.

I had a few moments where I was worried my chicken breast medallions weren’t cooked through enough, but it all worked out very well in the end. If I do anything differently, it might be to leave them just a little bit longer so they brown more. They were nicely caramelized, but they could have been even more nicely caramelized. Also, one of these days I’ll have to learn how to make a pan sauce.

Supper was simple but delicious: the last of the couscous-with-vegetables I made for my knife skills practice, the roast carrots I made this afternoon (yes, this means that between the two of us, we’ve eaten almost an entire 2-lb bag of carrots just today), and the pan-fried chicken breast with a little lemon juice squeezed over top. Look, I made MEAT ™ for my man! Now he won’t need to die from eating only vegetables! Next lesson: pan-fried BEEF ™, which is even more meat-like than MEAT ™. Because I care.

Freezer meals: cranberry chicken and beef stew

One failure and one success! (Eh, can’t win ’em all.) To start with the failure…

Cranberry chicken

Cranberry chicken

1. Cranberry Chicken

I admit, I was worried about the cranberry chicken pretty much as soon as I put it in the bag. It’s little more than chicken, apples, cranberry sauce, an onion, and some flavoring agents (lemon, honey, etc.). It made a lot less than the other recipes, only enough for dinner for me and Marc and a half-serving of leftovers. But that’s okay, because it wasn’t very good.

It might be that we cooked it too long. The directions are for 8 hours on low, and we probably had it in the crock pot around 10, but this was clearly Much Too Long. Despite being in a slow cooker all day, the meat was tough (i.e. overcooked) and the taste was… meh. Tart and sweet, but not in a good way. We ate our portions for dinner (reluctantly), but neither of us touched the leftovers. So this one — not so much a keeper.

 

Beef stew

Beef stew

2. Beef Stew

This one, on the other hand, went quite well. It’s admittedly kind of hard to screw up beef stew (recipe here), but still. It’s always nice when things come together, especially after the cranberry chicken disaster. The taste is good, it’s very hearty, and it makes enough for dinner plus another 2-3 servings. Putting it from the freezer to the fridge last night wasn’t quite enough time to defrost it, but it’s okay. Ten hours in a crock pot means that it was fine.

The one change I’d make next time is to add some barley. There’s a lot of liquid in this recipe, and I think adding in a 1/2-cup of barley when I toss everything into the crock pot (not in the freezer bag — I don’t think barley freezes that well) would do just the trick.

In any case, we had this with some baguette for dinner, and… yum! Just what we needed on a cold day like today. This one’s a keeper.

So we’re now halfway through the recipes I made for the first batch. Still to go: fajitas, taco soup, cilantro-lime chicken, and BBQ chicken. Clearly, our meals are gonna be somewhat Mexican-inspired for the next few weeks…

Freezer meal: coconut curry chicken

Coconut curry chicken, bagged and ready to dump in the crock pot.

Coconut curry chicken, bagged and ready to dump in the crock pot.

After the huge freezer / crock pot meal prep day, it was time to try one. The first meal we tried was coconut curry chicken from this website. I think for this recipe I used breasts instead of thighs, because thighs were about twice the price of the on-sale breasts and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend more money when I was already spending $170. Otherwise, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. Added a bit of cut-up sweet potato that was left over from an earlier recipe, but that’s about it. I used light coconut milk instead of regular because it’s about 1/3 the calories, and when you’re adding two cans, that adds up. I also didn’t add a full bag of peas — maybe a third or a half a bag. In any case, it was plenty.

The verdict: success! I served it on top of rice, which had the effect of making it a bulky soup as opposed to a sauce-on-rice, but it was still muchly tasty. Very, very filling. Even Marc could only get through one bowl. A very nice fall meal; I wouldn’t want to eat this in the heat of summer.

In the end, including the rice (about 3-ish cups, which I just dumped into the crock pot before putting all the leftovers into containers), it probably makes about 6 servings. Maybe 8 Julie-size servings or 5 Marc-size servings. So, plenty of leftovers for a few days’ lunch and tonight’s dinner for Marc. (I’ll be at D&D tonight).

So, I consider this off to a good start! Looking forward to figuring out what I’m going to have tomorrow!

Batch cooking #2

After last week’s batch cooking success, I decided to try again. The plan for this week: some sort of tagine, some sort of chili or meat sauce, and some sort of baked good. My plan was to have everything done by Sunday afternoon. But we all know how it goes with plans…

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