With temperatures in the high 90s and sometimes 100+, our garden works hard to survive. We are grateful!
With temperatures in the high 90s and sometimes 100+, our garden works hard to survive. We are grateful!
When I was five years old, I accompanied Papa (my grandpa) to the open market on Maunakea Street in Honolulu. These were special trips, and we ignored bins of fresh vegetables, meat hanging on hooks and colorful fish piled on ice on our way to a small shop lined with cages. I was entertained by live chickens, brown and white birds, proudly clucking and strutting. Grandpa examined each cage and eventually picked two or three. The shopkeeper tied the chicken’s feet and wrapped each bird tightly in white butcher paper. I was allowed to sit in the back seat to watch them as they lay still on their sides, heads sticking out, eyes blinking and occasionally a cluck.
At home, Mama placed a large metal bucket about two feet wide and one foot high on the kitchen floor. As she poured boiling water into the bucket, Papa deftly broke the chickens’ necks, cut off their heads, and we proceeded to remove feathers after the chickens were placed in the water. On those weekends, our extended family had fried chicken and various chicken soups and stews. Every part of the chicken, including the necks, feet and some of the innards, were used.
Because I was willing (eager actually) to help in the process, especially in the pulling of the feathers, I was allowed first pick at the chicken pieces. Inevitably, I selected pieces with the most skin. The wings, drumsticks and thighs were mine for the asking. Today I still choose dark meat pieces – on Thanksgiving, in a KFC bucket, at a potluck. I often replace chicken thighs for breasts when I cook.
I was therefore delighted to find a recipe on americastestkitchen.com specifically designed to optimize dark meat attributes. The host of America’s Test Kitchen (ATK), Christopher Kimball, explained that the collagen in dark meat turns into gel and absorbs a lot of liquid. The tendency of white meat, on the other hand, is to lose water and dry out during the cooking process.
This is an Italian braised dish that uses common pantry items. I dried and peppered nine pieces of chicken thighs and set that aside while I prepared the braising sauce.
To oil that was shimmering hot, I added about three ounces of prosciutto that was cut about 1/2 inch thick and diced into 1/4 inch cubes. After cooking this until it was lightly browned, I added four garlic cloves that were sliced lengthwise. As I set it aside, I wanted to make sure that it would be okay, and tasted a couple of pieces of prosciutto. It was “okay” (excellent!).
Next, I upped the temperature, added a little more olive oil and set the chicken in, skin side down. Although the written recipe called for skinning the thighs, the video noted that the crisping of the skin is part of the tastiness of this dish. Of course I kept the skin on!
I removed the chicken after about five minutes on each side, then reduced the oil to a couple of tablespoons. I added two cups of Mondavi chardonnay and a cup of chicken broth and while it simmered that for a few minutes, I scraped the chicken crusted at the bottom to get every bit into the sauce. I added four cloves, two bay leaves, twelve sage leaves and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. I stripped a four-inch stem of rosemary of its leaves, added the stem to the sauce and chopped up the leaves to use at the end. I then nestled the chicken, skin side up, into this liquid and stuck the pan into the 325 degree oven.
I prepared two simple side dishes that would complement the strong flavors of chicken canzanese. Al dente gemilli pasta sprinkled with fresh parsley and topped with chopped fresh tomatoes was light and perfect for soaking up the sauce. Steamed fresh asparagus rounded off the palate with its distinct flavor.
After about an hour and 15 minutes, I removed the pan from the oven and placed the chicken in its serving dish. I discarded all the leaves, simmered the sauce until it reduced to a little over a cup, and added the chopped up rosemary leaves, a tablespoon of lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of butter. I poured the sauce over the chicken and it was ready to serve.
CHICKEN CANZANESE – CRISPY SKIN, SUCCULENT MEAT, AND A RICH, FLAVORFUL SAUCE!
Note: Many thanks to America’s Test Kitchen for their videos. While their written recipes are clear and instructional, their videos bring the cooking process to life and even someone like me can replicate their dishes.
Until I lived in Texas, my experience with Mexican food was very limited. I ate a lot of bean burritos (no onions) from Taco Bell across the street from my office. The only Mexican food I made at home was tacos using McCormick dry mix, prepared corn tortillas and bottled picante sauce. Not proud of this; just stating the facts.
I’ve had great Mexican food in Texas, and two are my favorite. One is the brisket taco from Mi Cocina; it goes great with a marguerita on the rocks. The other is any food from a taquería. Taquerías remind me of lunch wagons back in Hawaii. The food is home-cooked, authentic and basic, plus it always hits the spot.
The 2009 Texas issue of Saveur Magazine quoted the owner of Casa Jurado restaurant saying, “We don’t eat Tex-Mex here. . . No combo plates.” The article intrigued me and I decided that new recipe #4 is that of this El Paso restaurant owner – salpicón, a shredded beef salad with lime and avocado. It was described as “pure, fresh-tasting food.” I hoped it was also easy.
Sangria ala Ricardo
He refrigerated it in the morning and its fragrance was quite heady whenever I opened the fridge. I was tempted to take a sip before dinner . . . but didn’t even stick in my pinkie for a tiny taste (applause).
The recipe called for two pounds of beef brisket, which is from the breast or lower chest of the cow. This is a very muscular cut; it has a lot of connective tissue because it supports 60 percent of the weight of a standing or moving cow. Thus, it needs a long cooking time to tenderize.
I simmered the meat with two smashed garlic cloves, two bay leaves and a large sliced onion. At about 2.5 hours, I was concerned that the beef didn’t seem to be getting any softer. I prodded it a lot. At about three hours, it started to come apart, and I let it simmer for 15 more minutes for good measure.
After it cooled, I shredded the meat and prepared the additional ingredients that included cubed Jack cheese, three Roma tomatoes that were cored and seeded, chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, scallions, and chopped chipotle chiles en adobo.
The latter is a new addition to our pantry. In my Filipino culture, adobo is a term we use for chicken and pork that’s been cooked in various ingredients, the primary of which is vinegar. Spanish adobo is different. It refers to the immersion of raw food, in this case, chipotle chiles, in stock and spices. It was originally used as a process to preserve without refrigeration and enhance flavors. The chipotle chile en adobo has a wonderfully smokey flavor and I added more than the tablespoon called for in the recipe.
The result is a dish that truly tantalizes the palette. The different flavors complement each other, and because of the chunkiness of the ingredients, one is obligated to take several bites to savor the fullness of flavors.
p.s. The peaches in the sangria must be eaten!
Delight to behold
You embody life’s longings
This week I tried two new recipes! The first was really practice. After I posted the prelude to this effort (6/15/11), I was beginning to doubt my culinary ability and commitment to try something different. So I looked for something that seemed relatively easy – Thai Peanut Sauce. Then, for my real new recipe, I tried Osso Bucco.
I found this recipe at shesimmers.com/2009/03/how-to-make-thai-peanut-sauce-my-moms.html. What attracted me to this recipe was the author’s claim that it was easy. And it was! I just needed coconut milk, unsweetened natural peanut butter, Thai red curry sauce, white vinegar, sugar salt and water. Heat this all in one pot for a few minutes, and it’s ready!
I used this as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken, zucchini and sugar snap peas, and served it with basmati rice. The leftover sauce is refrigerated for a side dish later this week.
Somewhat emboldened, I set out to make something that we might order in a restaurant because we’d never have it at home. This was to be a Father’s Day dinner so I looked for something that Richard might want. Osso bucco would hopefully satisfy his Italian palate.
I found a recipe at foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/osso-buco-recipe. This is from Chef Giada De Laurentiis who received an Emmy for Outstanding Lifestyle Host and has become one of Food Network’s most recognizable faces. I was afraid that I am way out of her league. I must have read the recipe ten times before I committed to it.
I bought about 2 1/2 pounds of veal shank and had to tie a string around each piece to keep the meat on the bone. I had never done that before and one of the pieces came apart during the cooking process (I really am a cooking neophyte!).
I used rosemary, thyme and a bay leaf from my garden. I also found some cloves in my cupboard although I can’t remember the last time I used cloves to cook. To make the bouquet garni, I had to substitute bandage gauze for cheesecloth, which is not something I normally have need for.
Luckily, the broth, olive oil, tomato paste and flour are standard pantry issues. And, of course I always have some dry white wine in my fridge. And, really now, carrots, celery and onions should also be common staples.
I did everything the recipe called for, including browning the floured meat, cooking the vegetables until transparent, adding the tomato paste and combining all in the pot. I added the 1/2 cup wine, but at the end of the designated time, I couldn’t figure out if the liquid decreased by half. Nevertheless, I added the two cups of chicken broth and started the simmering process.
For the next 1.5 hours, I turned the meat and checked the liquid level every 15 minutes. I never added the third cup of broth that might be needed in case the liquid too low. Towards the end of the simmering process, I prepared the mashed potatoes.
My first osso bucco!
P.S. There were no leftovers . . .
A stalker in my midst
I feel him in my tendrils
The way I sense when another’s shadow
Lengthens into mine
A presence so vaporous
I have yet to see his visage
Only air molecules scattering to fill
The vacuum he created
That someone might want me
Someone who harbors a secret obsession
To caress my hair
He leaves fingerprint trails
Wafts of lavender and rose
While I am asleep
Silently he lingers at my door
With a silent protégé to watch and learn
I must surrender