Posts tagged “cook

Chicken Cacciatore!

Chicken cacciatore is one of those dishes I always heard of, but strangely, never had as a kid. I couldn’t tell you why that is, but it certainly is worth taking the time to make. It is such a simple dish, and in many ways, reminds me of the poulet basquaies I made ages ago. I like these kinds of rustic dishes, they are generally pretty easy, and have loads of flavor. Simple ingredients that don’t get screwed up by trying to make them into something they aren’t.

What you need:

chicken, whole, cut up, or breasts if you prefer.

olive oil

10 – 12 crimini mushrooms sliced thin

garlic, minced how much do you like?

1 onion sliced thinly

1 bell pepper sliced thinly (about the same size as the onion)

1 can diced tomatoes

white wine

salt and pepper

herbes de provence

That is really it. You could add pancetta, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, fresh basil, you know,  that kind of thing.

I decided serve it on top of some gluten-free  noodles, and I picked up a box of Schar tagliatelle.

This is pretty straightforward stuff. Season the chicken with salt, and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet, and sear the chicken. When it releases from the pan, flip it over, and sear it on the other side. The second side won’t take as long as the first. Remove the chicken and set it on a plate for the time being.DSCF0560

DSCF0561There should be some oil left in the pan. Throw in the mushrooms add a little salt, and saute them until they are tender.DSCF0564 Then add the bell pepper, onion and garlic. Again, add a touch of salt, and saute until it is tender.  DSCF0565Add some wine, and bring it to a boil.  Scrape the brown bits up. I can’t really tell you how much, I wanted enough of the liquid to get some with the noodles. DSCF0566Next add the can of tomatoes and stir them in and bring the whole thing up to a boil. Add the black pepper and herbes de provence.  See how much liquid you have, if it looks like enough that you can get the chicken down in it part way.  Put the chicken in with whatever liquid is on the plate, put the lid on the skillet, and turn it down to a simmer.

While the chicken is simmering get the water boiling for your pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Keep in mind that the chicken will be fine if it is done a little before the pasta. The pasta on the other hand will turn into a gummy mess while the chicken finishes cooking.

Put some noodles on the plate, and top it with the chicken, and then veggies, and sauce. Bon appetit!    DSCF0567

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Sweet and Sour Chicken!

So, when I was a kid we would, from time to time, make a trip to a local Chinese food place. This was before the days of P. F. Chang, and gluten and basically everything. Once I was old enough to drive, it wouldn’t be unheard of for me to go to the same place and get the same thing. OK, there were several places I might go, but I almost always ended up with the same dish until I was in my 20’s. Sweet and Sour Chicken or pork depending on my mood… After that, I might go wild and have General Tso’s Chicken, but the Sweet and Sour was always there as a possibility. This pattern continued in college once I found the appropriate Chinese restaurant in town. My favorite had a fountain in the dining room… and many interesting evenings were spent there with friends.

Now, since going gluten-free my options for Chinese food are a lot more limited. That makes me sad, because I always loved it. Realistically, I know that this kind of thing is something I am easily capable of doing, but I never really tried it until today. Next time I might make a few adjustments, but it was good, and pretty close to what I expected. I’m pretty sure it is not particularly a traditional Chinese dish, but it is how I was exposed to Chinese food, and I would imagine I am not the only one.

Dinner!

Dinner!

I found this recipe in a  book called Chinese Cooking The Food and the Lifestyleand, then adjusted it slightly to make it safe and also to use what I had or could buy.

You need to make your sauce, marinate the chicken, and cut up the veggies. First I would cut up and marinate the chicken. You want bite sized pieces. The marinade is very simple. DSCF0463

2 Tablespoons of soy sauce (I used San-J gluten-free tamari.)

1 Tablespoon of sake (I know, sake is Japanese. Chinese rice wines are harder to find!)

black pepper

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or sesame oil
Just put the chicken in a bowl and toss with this mixture and allow to sit for 30 minutes or so. The chicken won’t get breaded like we all always had before, but it is fine. You could make a tempura batter with rice flour and deep fry it if you just have to have that element. Trust me though, this is good, and probably healthier! If you do make the tempura you’ll need to drain the chicken and then try to get it as dry as possible. Otherwise the batter won’t stick.

Next make the sauce. It is very quick, and easy.DSCF0460

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

6 Tablespoons ketchup

2 Tablespoons soy sauce (Again, San-J GF tamari)

Heat the vinegar and sugar in a small pot until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ketchup and soy sauce, and mix well.

Next we’ll deal with the veggies.

1 small onion cut in large dice 3/4″ across or so

1 or 2 carrots thinly sliced on the bias

1 bell pepper cut the same size as the onion

DSCF0466

In a second bowl

3 green onions finely sliced

1 clove garlic minced

ginger root about the same amount as the garlic also mincedDSCF0470

So, now we can put the whole thing together! Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or if you have a wok use it! Saute the chicken in the large skillet until it is nearly cooked through, and remove from the pan.DSCF0471 Wipe it clean and add a little more oil. Then saute the ginger, scallions and garlic until fragrant. This might take a minute.DSCF0472 Add the rest of the veggies and saute them until they start getting tender.DSCF0478 Return the chicken to the pan, and cook until the chicken is cooked through. DSCF0480Then add the sauce to the pan. DSCF0483Serve over rice and enjoy your trip down memory lane! I know I wish I had some chopsticks!


Grilling 101… Summer school

With summer and hot weather upon us the grill becomes a favorite way to cook lots of what we eat. Plus, it saves dishes in the kitchen!  There is probably not a lot of food that wouldn’t be tasty on the grill. I’ve grilled vegetables, various red meats, fish, poultry, fruit, and even some lettuces. No matter what food you decide to grill there are some basics that will apply.

1 FIRE!

Depending on your choice of fuel this will be easy or a little more complicated. Depending on what you are going to be cooking, and how you are going to be cooking it you will do different things.

I prefer charcoal, personally, but it is up to you. I know some people have grills with a charcoal section and a gas section. That would be nice for quick grilling sessions on a week night  fire up the gas side, and when you have time use the charcoal side. Or if you have people coming over, use both! I have given up lighter fluid, and now use a starter chimney. No more lighter fluid taste! It is easy, and actually pretty fast! You always want to make sure that the coals are ashed over before you start any food. Flames are bad when you are grilling. Flames mean soot, and soot is never good on your food!

Chimney starter loaded with natural chunk charcoal, and lit!

When you grill you have several options for getting heat to your food. You can have direct or indirect heat. Obviously, you can use both in one grilling session, and sometimes that is exactly what is called for. Charcoal grills give you more options, but they can also give you more problems.  With a gas grill you can use the burner or burners to control how much heat and where it is. When you are dealing with charcoal you have to place the fire where you want it. Obviously if you want a nice even heat over the entire grill you need to make sure you spread the coals under the grill evenly.

How you distribute the heat will depend on what you are grilling. Certain things require even heat across the entire grill. This category would include sausages (brats, hot dogs, salsiccia…), burgers, fish (fillets and steaks), veggies, fruits, chicken breasts. In other words, small similar sized items should go over direct heat. Indirect heat would be best for larger items or smoking. So, if you wanted to grill a whole chicken, or smoke a boston butt for example you want indirect heat. In the case of the chicken you could sear the skin over the hot part and move it to the cooler part of the grill to cook through, or cook the bird through and then sear the skin on the hot side.

When you are smoking you generally want a lower temperature, and to use indirect heat.  I do this by piling all of the coals (and soaked wood chips) at one end of the grill, and then putting the smokee at the other end. I am then able to control the temperature by opening the air vent and the chimney. More air flow will give you a higher temperature, but if you close things up too much you starve the fire of oxygen and you end up killing the fire. So you want to find the point where you have enough heat to cook, but you also want to have the fire low so that you can get  nice smoke flavor into the food.

Smoked boston butt after 4 hours in the smoker. That night I used pecan wood chips.

2 Let it warm up!

Before you put food on the grill you want it to get good and hot. This will help the food to not stick. I’m not really sure why this is, but in almost every case you want to put the food on a hot surface rather than a cold one. This will also help keep you from having flames, and it will burn off some crap from the grill.

3 Clean the grill!

Make sure there isn’t a whole bunch of burned crap on the grill. A grill brush will do the trick and it is cheap! This will ensure that all of the crap that was left on the grill the last time and burned on there doesn’t end up in your food.  If you think about it it makes sense.  You don’t want your grilled pineapples to taste like the chipotle marinated pork chops that you had the other night, do you? Clean the grill! (Having said that, chipotle pineapple might be an interesting combo… if you do it right, spicy and sweet almost always works!)

4 Season your food!

This should be a no brainer, but seasoning your food is always a good thing. In grilling, which is a high heat dry method of cooking, if you have a large piece of meat you should consider brining it. This will help you keep your food more moist. You might also want to consider brining things like shrimp which are easy to over cook. Even if all you use is salt and pepper it will make your food taste better when you get through cooking it. I also like to use various marinades and rubs, depending on the meat and the flavor I want.

5 Leave it alone!

Ok, so here is where things get a little more interesting. Whenever you are cooking and add a piece of high protein food to a hot surface it will stick. This is not a problem, just leave it alone! This happens in a non-stick skillet, it happens in a stainless steel skillet, and it happens on the grill. I’ve seen special foil that you can put on your grill to prevent that from happening. I don’t know why you would do that though. A little vegetable oil on the grill before you put the food on it, or a little cooking spray (Make damn sure you don’t get the baking spray that has flour in it, because that would not be gluten-free!) on the food before you place it on the grill will make it not stick. Since you’re leaving it alone you will not tear up the chicken, or steak or burger. What you will end up with is grill marks! (Just like at your favorite restaurant!)

Make sure you have a little oil on the grill, and place your seasoned food on the grill at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the grill grates, and leave it there! After a couple of minutes with your tongs lift the edge of the food very gently, and if it comes up lift it and turn it 90 degrees. If it doesn’t come up easily, let it sit a little longer. Obviously if you are making a burger you should use a spatula, and the angle that you place it is less important. Closing the lid of your grill will help heat the other side of the food, and speed things up a bit. Once you have turned your food and allowed it to sit a little longer you will have nice grill marks on one side of your food.

The second side will go a bit quicker, but with a large piece of meat the grill marks are less important, because it will take longer to finish cooking. If you have a larger piece of meat and you just want the grill marks you can finish it in the oven, and then return it to the grill to essentially remark it. This is fairly common with things like half chickens. You can do them on the grill from start to finish, but it takes a bit of care to not over cook it or burn the skin. It isn’t hard though.

The burger on the right shows what will happen if you try to flip your food too early. I had it over a cold spot on my grill, oops! The one on the left has some nice grill marks though!

6 Eat!

This one is pretty simple! Enjoy the summer, and grilling! There are is almost no limit to what you can grill, and with a little creativity you can really get some great flavors that are much more difficult during the winter, unless you are a serious griller, and then you won’t be hindered by a little snow!


Preserved Lemons… A Prelude

I have been aware of preserved lemons for a while, but to the best of my knowledge I had never encountered them. North African cuisine is not something I have a lot of experience with, but the chef recently added a dish to the menu that uses some of the flavors, and it is naturally gluten-free! A couple of major flavor components in this dish are preserved lemons and smoked paprika, and let me tell you it is quite a combination!

Obviously, smoked paprika you are probably not going to make, but you can make preserved lemons if you want.  All you need is salt, lemons, lemon juice and a clean jar to put them in.

First, you want to make sure the lemons are nice and clean.  There are washes you can use, but I don’t think they have been shown to be any more effective than water. Take your knife and cut down about 3/4 of the way through from the bud end. Then turn it 90 degrees, and cut it again. Once you have all of the lemons cut that you want to hold each one over the jar and pour salt into it.  Set them in the jar, and then pour lemon juice over them.  The lemons float, so there isn’t a lot you can do about them bobbing up to the surface.  I kind of swish them around once in a while when I think of it. I don’t know if it helps.  They need to sit for a couple of weeks. Pop your jar in the fridge, and don’t worry about it for two weeks. You’re done with them. They won’t go bad any time soon! The  salt and juice will actually soften the lemons quite a bit.  Also, the pith  will not  be bitter like it  is  in a  fresh  lemon.We will be using some of these very soon, and I am excited about it. Between the smoked paprika I picked up the other day and these lemons there is a ton of flavor to be enjoyed! Of course there will be a bit more to it.


Cooking School Part 1 (A little background)

After writing my post about making coq au vin a while back, I realized that when I’m in the kitchen I have some advantages.  I would like to help you develop a similar set of skills. I wouldn’t be surprised if you are not interested in spending your life in a kitchen. However, there are a lot of skills that you can learn at home that will serve you well, and my goal with this little series of posts is to help you learn some of them.

Your first job in a commercial kitchen is washing dishes. While you do that, you also learn to do some prep. Frequently, it involves chopping a pile of stuff into whatever size and shape the chef would like. There are lots of terms to learn, and techniques to be practiced. During one shift I cut thirty pounds of various vegetables into 3/4″ pieces for roasting. What does that do for you? Practice, practice, practice. There was plenty of time, and there was lots to do. During this time I was told things by the chef and sous chef like, “I need 2 pounds of mirepoix for stew” or “roll cut these carrots”. Essentially, you will spend a lot of time with a peeler and a knife.

This is how people have always learned to work in a kitchen. Each skill builds on the next. Going to culinary school speeds up the process some, but it still won’t give you the hours of practice with each skill that you would have working under a chef.

Once you have the hang of fabricating vegetables, you will be moved onto other tasks. Next you might be given the job of using the vegetables, and some other materials to make basic stocks. Essentially, you will be making the basic components of what is needed for  lunch, dinner or a party that is being catered.

When the salad guy stops showing up you might get a promotion from dishwasher to the salad station! This is kind of how kitchens work. Each one is different, but generally the first station you do is salads or pantry. This is sometimes called Garde Manger in the brigade system used in large kitchens. As you move from station to station you learn new skills. One of the first things you will learn on the salad station is how to make salad dressings, and other things like pesto. During service (when food is being served to guests in the dining room) you will make salads, sandwiches, cold appetizers, and some hot appetizers that can be done quickly. Generally, these are very simple things to do, but you will be busy. This gives you the chance to really practice what you have learned and apply it. (Usually at high speed!)

So, the goal of this series of posts is to walk you through the things you would learn as a dishwasher or pantry cook.  We’re going to do things like make a vinaigrette, make pesto, use a knife properly, cook eggs, and maybe make some candied nuts. There are probably  a few other things as well. Then, I will show you how to use what you just made. These are all tasty, easy, and useful. Hopefully, this will inspire you to try some new things, and eat something great!


Post Thanksgiving Turkey Wrap-up!

If you’re anything like me you have a turkey carcass wrapped in foil that you have no idea what to do with.  It probably has a leg, a couple of wings, and a breast that have not been touched. I’m not going to just hack at the turkey until I think it isn’t going to be any good to eat though. Hopefully, you won’t either!

The first thing you want to do is get the meat off of the bones.  The legs and wings are pretty easy to deal with. You can remove them just like you would on a chicken, and then pick the meat off the bones.  The breast that is still intact on your bird may be a bit more daunting. It is not as hard as you think.

To deal with the breast use your chef’s knife and cut straight down, parallel to the keel bone, and then follow the contour of the rib cage. This will cut off the majority of the the breast.  It is not hard, but it can take a bit of practice. Once you have it cut off you can lay it down on a cutting board and slice it for serving.

If you decide to make stock, (and you should) it is really very easy. Take the carcass, skin, bones, and whatever leftover bits of meat are clinging to it, and place them all in a pot.  Throw in some garlic, onions, celery, and carrots, some bay leaves and thyme, and cover with cold water. You should not salt your stock.  If you decide to reduce it you will end up with a sauce that is too salty.  You can always add salt when you want to use it. Put the pot on the stove and bring it up to a simmer.  That is all, but you don’t want the stock to boil or it will be cloudy.  The simmering water will break down the collagen in the bones and you end up with gelatin. This is a good thing, and your stock will be nice and viscous. (I was always freaked out by the brown jelly on cooked cold turkey as a kid, what did I know? I get it now!)Simmer your stock.  After a few hours, strain out the solids and cool it down.   When your stock is cool it should have the consistency of jelly. From there you can do lots with it.  You can make sauces, soups, you could freeze it to use later.  Freezing it can be very helpful since there is a good chance you may not use all of the stick you have before it goes bad.  If you freeze it in small portions you can add it to things when you need it.

Hopefully this will inspire you to tackle that turkey in your fridge! Stock is very easy, and we both know you have the raw materials already.  Just go ahead and do it!  You won’t regret it.


Pollo al achiote

Early in our relationship I took Amy to a restaurant that I really like.  It is this tiny place in what is a not very good neighborhood of St Louis.  The place is called Fritanga. It is a Nicaraguan restaurant, and they serve some of the most fantastic food I have ever eaten. It is not a fancy place, and you don’t ever want to go if you are in a hurry. On a busy night all of the tables will be full of people eating, drinking and talking, enjoying the food and relaxed atmosphere as well as the company of the others at their table.

Once I went gluten-free I knew that there would be some sacrifices that I would have to make when dining out.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that Fritanga is almost entirely gluten-free!!

Global Foods is a really cool place to shop for food from almost anywhere!

Amy likes the pollo al achiote, and I like the lomo de cerdo asado. The two dishes are actually pretty similar, either chicken or pork, marinated in achiote or annatto paste. Annatto seeds are ground with various spices such as cumin, and oregano.  It is a very tasty combination, but not hot.  I was at Global foods the other day and ran across a container of achiote paste. After seeing how easy it was to use the achiote when I made my chili at work I decided I would try my hand at the pollo al achiote from Fritanga.

This is what you are looking for!

This is the box you are looking for!

The first step for this dish is to marinate the chicken.  Pork loin could also be used. The lomo de cerdo asado that I frequently eat there is a thick pork loin chop that is marinated in achiote and grilled. To make the marinade combine a tablespoon of canola oil, and a tablespoon of the achiote paste.  This stuff goes a long way, and it will impart a fantastic color and very nice flavor to the chicken.

Achiote paste ready to use...

Combine the achiote and your chicken and allow it to sit for several hours in the fridge.  You could grill or bake the chicken.  In this case I decided to just bake it.

At Fritanga this would be served with gallo pinto or black beans and rice, with a side of a really tasty slaw, and plantains.  The Plantains are served one of several ways.  They give you a choice of either chips, tostones or maduros.  Any of those are fantastic choices.  I personally really like tostones!  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to pick up any plantains.  When you have them what you do with them depends on how ripe  they are.  You can make chips when they are green, tostones when they are yellow, and maduros when they are pretty well black.

In this case I just served the chicken with rice and black beans.  We had a little salad and enjoyed a very tasty dinner!