Friday, May 30, 2014

Spatchcocked chicken? You watch your language!

One of my favorite t.v. chefs used to be Aida Mollenkamp. I don't know if she's even on t.v. anymore, but I still follow her online. Recently, she posted an amazing recipe for a spatchcocked roasted chicken with lime, chile, and cilantro. As you know, I'm all about spatchcocking (or so you may have heard--tee hee), but I never thought that only five ingredients would yield something so incredibly flavorful. It should be noted that I used pickled jalapenos instead of serranos (as it's what I had on hand), and added a teaspoon each of ground cumin and dark chili powder to the marinade. So that takes it to seven ingredients, but c'est la vie! 

I served this wonderfully tender, juicy, and zesty chicken with a simple salad of (steamed, peeled and chunked and cooled) potatoes, corn (steamed and cut from the cob), pickled green beans, a can of dark red kidney beans (drained), and a few small chopped tomatoes all tossed with a little bottled vinaigrette. This meal is definitely going into my regular repertoire!

Note: If the chicken comes out of the oven not quite dark and crispy enough to suit you, flip on the broiler for a few minutes right at the end of cooking time.

Roasted Cilantro Chile Lime Spatchcocked Chicken
(Source: adapted from Aida Mollenkamp)

1 (4 to 5 pound) chicken
1 or 2 medium serrano chiles seeded and minced
5 medium garlic cloves grated or minced
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest, divided
scant teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon dark chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Remove necks and any innards from the cavities and discard. To spatchcock, use a sharp pair of sharp poultry shears or kitchen scissors to cut along the backbone; remove and discard. Score along the breastbone then flip chicken, placing it breast-side up, and pressing down to flatten until it is lying completely flat.

Combine half of the lime zest with remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix until evenly combined. Season and adjust flavor as desired. Massage the mixture into both sides of the bird.  Set aside while oven heats up, at least 20 minutes.

Drizzle a little of the marinade into a large cast iron pan, roasting pan, or baking dish and rotate to coat the bottom. Lay chicken breast-side down, scrape/pour the remainder of the marinade over the chicken, then roast until breast is golden brown and opaque, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, carefully flip, then continue to roast, basting every few minutes, until thigh juices run clear and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165°F, about 15 to 20 minutes more (about 45 to 50 minutes total). 

Set chicken aside and rest 5 to 10 minutes before carving. Serve garnished with remaining lime zest, cilantro, and with pan juices spooned over the top.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

This is a dangerous post. Deliciously dangerous.

People, I have gone to a very dark, dangerous place this time...a place that no diabetics, those on cholesterol/blood pressure meds, or anyone with any genuine concern for his or health should go. But here it is: I have created a Doughnut Plant-Voodoo Doughnut hybrid that may not surpass my beloved Doughnut Plant doughnuts, but they are six hours closer to home and also a thousand times better than Dunkin' Donuts, the only game in this town. 

I found the recipe online via Cooking Channel's "Follow That Food." And I read a bunch of user comments, but now I cannot find where I saw those. But the one recurring comment I remember was that the recipe was incorrect, as it called for way too much flour, so I omitted one cup (and next time, I might take it down another 1/2 cup).  Another tip I gleaned from somewhere on the internet was to fry in vegetable shortening  instead of vegetable oil, as it's easier to regulate the temperature. Other than that, I followed the recipe pretty faithfully, and these doughnuts turned out AWESOME! Of course, I made them all the more decadently sinful by adding a maple glaze and bacon pieces. OH YES I DID! I can't wait until the local strawberries come into season, as that's my next move. I'd also like to do a sunflower seed version, as that's one of my favorite Doughnut Plant flavors. The possibilities are endless!

A note: This recipe made about 16 large (though not as large as Doughnut Plant) doughnuts. If you don't want to fry them all up at once, you can keep half of the dough in the refrigerator for up to a week proceeding with batch #2. (Any longer than that, and too much yeast will die off, and you won't get a good rise. Plus, they will taste rather boozy from the yeast converting to alcohol.)

Yeast-Raised Doughnuts
(Source: Doughnut Plant's Mark Israel, via Follow That Food)

1 cup milk
1/4 cup water, lukewarm
1 package dry active yeast
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 egg, well beaten
1 teaspoon salt 

Vegetable oil, for frying (I prefer to use vegetable shortening)
Special equipment: a doughnut cutter
Basic Confectioners' Sugar Glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons water

To make doughnuts: Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium-heat. When the milk reaches a simmer pour it into a mixing bowl and allow it to cool. Meanwhile, measure 1/4 cup of lukewarm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast into the water then let the mixture stand until the yeast dissolves, about 7 minutes. Stir the yeast mixture into the milk along with one tablespoon of the sugar. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the flour (by hand or with an electric mixer) then cover the dough starter with a clean towel and set it aside to rise and rest in a warm place for one hour.

When the dough has relaxed, cream the butter with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat the butter mixture into the dough a little at a time. Mix in the egg and salt then mix in the remaining three cups flour. Work the dough until it is smooth then place it in a well-greased bowl. Cover again with a clean towel and set aside in a warm place until doubled in bulk, at least one hour.

Turn the dough out onto floured board and roll it out about 1/2-inch thick. Using a floured doughnut cutter, cut out the doughnuts. Transfer the doughnuts to a clean floured board or baking sheet. Cover once again with a clean towel, and set aside to rise until doubled.

Heat about four inches of oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees F. Working in batches of two or three, fry the doughnuts until they float. Once they bob to the surface of the oil, carefully flip them over. Continue cooking, turning as necessary, until the doughnuts are uniformly golden-brown. Transfer the cooked doughnuts to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. While the doughnuts are still warm, dip one side of each into the glaze then set aside to cool until the glaze firms. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To make the glaze: Combine the confectioners' sugar with two tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Mix well then add a little more water, if necessary, to make a smooth, creamy glaze. Cover the glaze directly with plastic wrap and reserve. You can alter the basic glaze recipe by substituting fruit juice or liqueur for some or all of the water. (To make maple bacon doughnuts: I added two tablespoons of Grade B maple syrup and about a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste to make the maple glaze. After dipping the doughnuts in the glaze twice, I sprinkled on bits of real, double-smoked bacon.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spring into spring rolls!

I am so susceptible to suggestion when it comes to cooking. If I see something prepared on t.v. that looks good, I sprint to the kitchen immediately to try to recreate it. So when my friend, Mike, made spring rolls and posted a pic to Facebook recently, I had no choice but to make spring rolls of my own. And since it seems like spring has FINALLY come after the world's longest winter, what better thing to make as an homage to the season than spring rolls?

I used Alton Brown's recipe, and I followed it pretty closely, except that I mixed all of the filling ingredients together like a noodle salad of sorts, and then filled the wrappers. Spring rolls may seems intimidating, but they aren't that hard to make. However, I have two pieces of advice to help your learn from my mistakes. First, DON'T overfill the wrappers (as pictured below) or they will explode and make a big old mess--albeit a tasty one--when you try to eat them. Also, don't place the finished rolls on unlined plate or tray as you're making them. As they sit there, they will glue themselves to the surface, and you'll have a devil of a time picking them up without them splitting and, once again, exploding. That's where the lettuce leaves come it. Lay them out on your plate or tray and set a roll inside each leaf as you go, then roll up and devour!

Thai Shrimp Spring Rolls
(Source: Alton Brown via Food Network)

5 ounces thin rice stick noodles
2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1 pound unpeeled large shrimp
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon sambal chili paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 large cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3/4 cup fresh mint, chopped (I omitted the mint, as I don't dig it)
12 (8 1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers
12 leaves Bibb, Boston, or other soft lettuce

Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Soak the rice sticks in enough hot water to cover by 1 inch for 15 minutes.

Bring 1/2 gallon of water to a boil in a large pot set over high heat. Add one tablespoon soy sauce. Add the shrimp and cook until just firm, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the cooked shrimp to a cutting board and cool for three minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel, devein, and coarsely chop. Set aside.

Return the water-soy sauce to a boil. Drain the rice stick noodles and add to the hot soy-water. Cook until tender, approximately three minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the lime juice, remaining one tablespoon soy sauce, chili paste, and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl.

Drain the noodles in a colander. Add the noodles to the lime juice mixture, toss, and set aside while preparing the vegetables.

Toss the cucumber, carrot, cilantro, and mint (if using) together in a small bowl. Transfer any unabsorbed liquid from the noodles to the cucumber mixture and toss to combine.

Cut the noodles into small 1 to 2-inch pieces with kitchen shears.

Fill a pie dish with warm water. Dip one rice paper wrapper into the water for 10 seconds, then transfer to a cutting board until the wrapper is pliable and slightly tacky, approximately one minute.

Place 1/4 cup of the vegetable mixture on the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper nearest to you. Spoon two tablespoons chopped shrimp on top of the vegetables. Top with 1/4 cup noodles. Bring the bottom edge of the wrap tightly over the filling, and then fold in the two sides. Finish rolling from bottom to top until the entire wrapper is rolled. Be careful not to tear the rice paper. Place on a parchment-lined half sheet pan and cover with a damp tea towel. Repeat with the remaining wrappers until the filling is gone. Wrap each roll in a lettuce leaf and serve with Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce.

Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce:
Add all of the ingredients to a lidded jar and shake well to combine. Serve as a dipping sauce for spring rolls.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Whoever came up with this should be sainted!

On my way back from the PBGV National in Harrisburg, PA a couple of weeks ago, of course, I HAD to stop at Wegman's, the world's best grocery store. I acquired many wonderful things, like I do. But I discovered something truly revolutionary in the frozen foods section. 

If you have the good fortune in life to live near a Wegman's, RUN, do not walk, to that most magical grocery store and buy yourself a big bag of...wait for it...mac and cheese ravioli. Then make a blush sauce with a pint of homemade spicy tomato sauce and a cup of farm-fresh cream and prepare yourself for gastronomical nirvana. #yourewelcome

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Tuna in your mac salad? That's CRAZY TALK!"

I have a young colleague at work named Jarrod who teaches psychology and is an all-around delightful human being!  He is an enthusiastic and dedicated instructor, and his students adore him, but he also has many other interesting qualities. First of all, he and his lovely and brilliant wife, Christina, have FIVE--count 'em, FIVE--kids, and he's an awesome dad. Also, he seems to be able to build or repair anything--a brilliant handyman. And as I have recently learned, he has worked in a professional kitchen and as a caterer, and has MAD skills in the kitchen!

After graduation last night, a bunch of us stopped off for a drink at a local bistro, and as we sat on the patio in the drizzling rain (apparently, we're too dumb to come out of the rain), Jarrod and I began comparing notes about macaroni salad. Interestingly, we hold similar views of what makes a mac salad great--like shells are preferable to elbows, and especially, the inclusion of tuna. But he has other fervent but idiosyncratic beliefs, such as you need to find the right balance of mayo to Miracle Whip for the dressing, and that the "secret" ingredient that makes all the difference is a pinch of...wait for it...Lawry's Season Salt. Um, okay. And my belief is that his recipe (based on his mom's) needs some olives, a little ground celery, and maybe a hit of sriracha...because everything does.

Thus, I give you our delicious hybrid, and since I teach speech and Jarrod teaches psych, I shall call it, "Crazy Talk" Mac Salad--as is, "You put TUNA in your macaroni salad? That's just CRAZY TALK!"

"Crazy Talk" Mac Salad

1 lb. small shells or rings, cooked, drained and cooled
4 hard-cooked eggs, cooled, peeled and chopped
1 can chunk tuna, drained
1/4 cup finely-minced onion (or a few green onions or a bunch of chives)
1/2 cup chopped olives (I used green salad olives)
1/2 teaspoon ground celery
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
squirt of sriracha, optional

Instructions? I think you know what to do.