Thursday, October 30, 2014

Chicken in Spicy Red Sauce Lal Shorve Vala Murgh

     The weather is starting to get cold, so it's time to cook more Indian food! Nothing warms you up like a belly full of fine spices. This couldn't be a more satisfying dish. Chicken and potatoes in tomatoes packed with flavor. I served it over rice because starch. I'm definitely going to make this again, but when I do, I'm adding more heat and cutting back the water to get a thicker sauce. As I made it, it was pretty mild. I wound up adding some sauce made from Carolina Reapers. That helped! Despite the wide array of spices, this dish was really a snap to cook. Give it a try. Or don't. Ignore this and go to McDonald's. You won't hurt my feelings. No, seriously, you'll hurt my feelings. Try it. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Chicken in a Spicy Red Sauce
Lal Shorve Vala Murgh
via Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking

  • 2-1/4 pounds chicken pieces (we went with thighs. You can use whatever you want)
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 good-sized cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (we grated our ginger, but more importantly, why is fresh ginger always measured in inches? What if you have a piece 2 inches long but sixty feet wide? Seems kind of inconsistent)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Generous pinch ground asfetida. optional (no it's not. Find an Indian grocer or get it online. Trust me.)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2-inch stick cinnamon
  • 6 cardamom pods (didn't have any on hand, but I did have cardamom seeds. We used about a teaspoon worth)
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 dried, hot red chiles (we went with dried cayenne)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (in retrospect, I should have gone with 1/2 teaspoon. It could have used a bit more heat)
  • 1-1/2 cup canned, chopped tomatoes (I used a 14.5 ounce can. I didn't drain it, which I will do next time, or cut some of the water that gets added later)
  • 12 ounces potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks (my chunks were about 1/2-3/4 inches. I do what I want)
  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and black pepper and set aside.
  2. Put the garlic and ginger into a blender with 3 tablespoons water; blend into paste.
  3. Put the oil in a wide, nonstick pan and set over medium-high heat (we went with the trusty cast-iron enameled Dutch oven). When the oil is hot, put in the cumin seeds. Wait for 10 seconds and put in the cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves and red chiles. Stir for a few seconds until the larger spices begin to turn darker. Put in the garlic and ginger paste. Stir and fry for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir and fry for another minute (I gave it a few minutes to get a nice brown on the skin of the chicken). Add the tomatoes, potatoes, 1-1/4 cup of water and 1 teaspoon salt (I omitted the salt and will likely cut the water a bit, since I kept the liquid from the canned tomatoes)
  5. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken and the potatoes are tender (I live in constant fear of poisoning myself with undercooked chicken, so I gave it an extra 5 minutes or so). 
  6. Make sure to remove the cloves, pods and dried chiles, or at least warn your diners. Remember, much like bay leaves, large spices=DEATH.
Good times!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pasta with Zucchini and Shrimp

     Our garden has been zucchini fabulous this season. Even in late October, it's still producing. We have been desperately searching for ways to use it up. There's only so many zucchini breads or zucchini boats you can eat. The recipe we settled on turned out to be extremely easy and tasty. While we made some adjustments for what was actually on hand, I think we're actually pretty close to the intended recipe here. We're calling it a winner. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Pasta with Zucchini and Shrimp
Originally Maccheroni alla Chitarra con Gamberi e Zucchini
via The Geometry of Pasta

  • About 1/2 pound maccheroni all chitarra (that's the same thing as medium shells, right? Because that's what I used)
  • 2-3 zucchini (about 2/3 pound) (they must have some weak-ass garden where they are, because our zucchini are about 2/3 pound EACH. That's just how badass we are. We used one zucchini and one small yellow squash)
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2-2/3 pound raw shell-on prawns, shelled (prawns! La-de-da! Unfortunately, my chauffeur had the flu so I couldn't get to my man on the coast. I had to make due with a bag of frozen shrimp from Wal-mart. Scandalous.)
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 basil leaves, torn or shredded
  1. Top and tail the zucchini, then cut across into half to make them a manageable length. Slice each section lengthwise in thin, 1-2 millimeter slices, then stack the slices and cut into julienne strips the same width as the pasta will be when cooked. You could lightly season these with salt a few minutes, but it isn't really necessary.
    Yeah, it's totally not going to happen like that.
    (Now the previous instructions as we did it: Cut the ends off the zucchini. Run the bastard through a mandoline with the julienne blades in. Don't worry about how long you cut them. Carry on.)
  2. Put the pasta on. (I would, but it doesn't go with my outfit at all)
  3. A few minutes before the pasta is cooked, heat a wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and garlic, which should fry a little, but not color. 
  4. Add the zucchini, prawns (shrimp), and salt and pepper to taste. Fry until prawns are half cooked, then add the butter. Sautee until the sauce is luscious (Whoo! Somebody had their thesaurus out when they wrote this!) and the zucchini is wilted, but with some bite.
  5. Drain the pasta and toss into the sauce, increasing the heat to high for the last 30 seconds. Stir in the basil and serve.
Good times!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mapo Tofu

     It's always nice to find simple recipes in cooking magazines. Half the time they require ridiculous ingredients with insane direction. "Lightly lambaste a pre-pubescent hedgehog for 16 hours before braising another 12 hours in a reduction of leprechaun tears and the sweat of an owlbear." I hate that sort of shit. Give me a nice simple recipe involving simple ingredients. If I can bang it out in under 30 minutes, that's even better. This is one of those recipes. This came together in about 20 minutes and was plenty tasty. I like that options for the harder to find ingredients were provided. Naturally, I took liberties with the recipe. The end result was plenty tasty and very filling. We'll call it a winner and add it to the rotation. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Mapo Tofu
via Food and Wine Magazine

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil (omitted)
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef chuck (85% lean) (That didn't happen. I went with about a pound and a quarter of 73/27 ground beef)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (omitted. I figure I'd go straight beef for this)
  • Kosher salt (I try to limit salt intake, so I omitted it)
  • 2 Tbsp. chile bean sauce, preferably tobojan dijan (Nope. I did have black bean garlic sauce, which I used instead)
  • 2 Tbsp. homemade sriracha. Use store bought if you prefer.
  • 2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce or tenmenjan (soybean paste) (We had the hoisin on hand so that's what we used.)
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • One 14-ounce package soft tofu, drained and finely diced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • white rice for serving
  1. Heat a large pan until hot (if you can heat it until it's cold, you've done something wrong). Add the oil, followed by the beef and pork (since the beef was a touch fatty, I just omitted the oil). Season with salt and cook over high heat, stirring and breaking up the meat until crumbly and lightly browned, about 3 minutes (if you used higher fat meat like we did, remember to drain the grease)
  2. Stir in the chile-bean sauce, hoisin and soy sauce (and the sriracha, if you're using it) and cook, stirring for 3 minutes; gently fold in the tofu.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch into the water. Add to the pan and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the scallions and serve.
Good times!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yogurt Corn Bread with Peanut Butter Filling

     There is absolutely no reason to buy corn bread mix in a box. It's really not hard to make. It's even easier when you have a good recipe to work with. This is one of those recipes. I can say that because I stole it from someone who knew what they were doing. I especially like the idea of filling the corn bread with peanut butter. With a smear of jelly, you've got an instant breakfast. I may try filling these with savory stuff like ham, eggs and cheese for self contained breakfasts! As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Yogurt Corn Bread
with Peanut Butter Filling

adapted from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1-1/4 cups milk (Amazingly, we were totally out of milk. We went with 1-1/2 cups plain yogurt instead)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Peanut butter, crunchy or smooth depending on what you like. (if you just want plain cornbread, just leave this out)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F (200C, Gasmark 6)
  2. Place all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with an electric mixer. Add the liquids and mix until smooth.
  3. At this point, if you want plain old corn bread/muffins, just pour what you have into a greased 8x12" pan or put about 3 tablespoons of batter in individual muffin tins and cook for 30 minutes. 
  4. If you wanted the peanut butter filling, grease a muffin pan and put 1 tablespoon of batter in the bottom of each tin (this may not fill every pan. We only were able to fill 10 of the 12 slots on our muffin pan). Place 1 tablespoon of peanut butter in the tin on the batter. Cover with another 2 tablespoons of batter. 
  5. Cook for 30 minutes (baking times may vary)
Good times!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Middle Class Daube De Boeuf

     When I received a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I will admit I rolled my eyes a bit. While I have dabbled in French cooking, it never struck me as particularly middle class. Most of what I saw from watching The French Chef on PBS was always insanely complicated and used ingredients I couldn't even pronounce, much less afford. After a bit of reading, I found that there are some rustic recipes hiding in there. I did a baked daube provencal some time ago that was absolutely fabulous. I figured I couldn't go wrong doing a daube from this book. That is, unless I didn't have the ingredients it called for. I had no stewing beef and no suitable wine. I wasn't going to waste my therapeutic bottles of Moscato for cooking. Given the amount of work required to make beef stew here, I'm classifying this recipe as a P.I.T.A.. Changes were made. I imagine if Julia Child were alive and saw me abusing her recipe, she'd likely die on the spot.  I'd like to think she'd salute my ingenuity and creativity, but more than likely I'm looking to get my ass beat in the afterlife if she ever finds me. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Middle Class Daube De Boeuf
via Mastering the Art of French Cooking
  • 3 lbs lean stewing beef cut into 2-1/2 inch squares, 1 inch thick (we used 3 lbs of ground beef. 73/27, no less. I'm not made of money)
  • A large, glazed earthenware bowl (no)
  • 1-1/2 cup dry white wine, dry white vermouth, or red wine (we opted for a bottle of O'Fallon Cherry Chocolate Beer, because I'll tell you, that shit ain't fit for drinking. We figured it might work for cooking)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup brandy, eau de vie, or gin (while I don't normally skip the opportunity for extra booze, we figured to err on the side of caution and just stick with the beer)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme or sage (we opted for the sage)
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf (no matter how much you crunch it, it will never be enough. Heed the warnings of my mother: unattended bay leaves mean certain death)
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/2 lb lean bacon cut into 1-inch slices 1/4-inch thick and 2 inches long, approximately (Definitely use lean bacon or you're going to be fishing out nasty bacon fat from the final product. As for slice size, we just cut a pack of bacon in half and used them as is)
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 lbs ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and chopped (we just peeled them, smashed the shit out of them, and willfully ignored the other steps)
  • A 5-6 quart fireproof casserole 3-1/2 inches deep  (we went with the trusty cast iron enameled Dutch oven)
  • 1 cup sifted flour on a plate (we used the flour, but about 3 tablespoons, and not on a plate. I'll explain later)
  • 1-2 cups beef stock or canned beef bouillon (we used 2 cups of water and a beef bouillon cube)
  1. Place the beef in the bowl and mix with the wine, optional spirits, olive oil, seasonings, herbs and vegetables. Cover and marinate at least 3 hours (6 if refrigerated), stirring up frequently (we took only the vegetables and herbs and threw them in a bowl with the marinade. Since we were not adding meat at this point, we totally ignored the 3 hour requirement and soldiered on)
  2. Simmer the bacon for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water (If you've ever seen the movie "Better Off Dead," you'll understand my reluctance to boil bacon. We just gave it a 3 minute zap in the microwave)
  3. Prepare the mushrooms and tomatoes (already did. They're floating in the marinade)
  4. Remove the meat from the marinade and drain in a sieve (we browned the ground beef and drained the excess oil. We then mixed about 3 tablespoons of flour in with the meat)
  5. Preheat oven to 325F (170C Gasmark 3)
  6. Line the bottom of the casserole (or Dutch oven) with 3-4 strips of bacon. Strew a handful of the marinade vegetables, mushrooms and tomatoes over them. Piece by piece, roll the beef in the flour and shake off excess. Place closely together in a layer over the vegetables (we took the ground beef and flour mixture and spread a layer over the veggies). Cover with a few strips of bacon, and continue with layers of vegetables, beef and bacon. End with a layer of vegetables and 2-3 strips of bacon.
  7. Pour the wine from the marinade and enough stock or bouillon almost to cover the contents of the casserole (it took us all the marinade liquid and 2 cups of stock to get the required level of liquid)
  8. Bring to simmer on top of the stove, cover closely, and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers slowly for 2-1/2 to 3 hours (we used the full 3). The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily (obviously don't use this method if you went with the ground beef)
Good times!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

Once again we turn to the trusty slow cooker to burn through surplus ingredients. We had plenty of potatoes and green onions on hand. We also had some sour cream getting ready to go off. We didn't have any bacon, but we did have bacon bits. They worked, but game the dish a queasy pink hue. In the end, it worked. It had all the flavors you'd expect from a loaded baked potato. Would it have been easier to just pop a couple spuds in the oven and then put on the toppings? Yes. Yes it would. There's a lesson to be learned here, but I'll be damned if I know what it is. As always, notes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Casserole
  • 2 pounds potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons bacon bits (if you're not down with bacon bits, feel free to use real bacon. You'll likely need about 1/2 pound, cooked until crisp and then crumbled into the mixture.)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and dump unceremoniously into a slow cooker that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cook on LOW for about 5 hours (cooking time may vary. At five hours, give it a taste. You'll know right away if the potatoes aren't done)
Good times!