Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hainanese-Style Chicken Rice (Hainan Ji Fan) in Clay Pot

Hainanese chicken rice, a very popular dish in Singapore and Malaysia, traces its origins to Hainanese immigrants from Southern China. The simplicity of this dish belies the complexity of its flavors: it's essentially chicken and rice cooked in chicken stock, flavored with aromatics like ginger, scallions and garlic, and served with a chili-garlic-ginger dipping sauce on the side. Traditionally, a whole chicken is poached for this dish, with some of the stock reserved to cook the rice in, but I opted to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for ease of preparation. A clay pot is not necessary to make this recipe (you can just use a pot or wok with a lid), but I like to use one because it makes a really nice presentation. My rice of choice is Jasmine for its flavor and texture, which I saute first in a little vegetable oil and sesame oil along with some ginger slices, smashed garlic cloves, and scallion sections for extra flavor (cooking raw rice first in a little oil is very similar to the way you would start off a risotto or pilaf). My dipping sauce is a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, fresh chiles, garlic, and lots of ginger.

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 lbs.)
6 cups chicken broth (or 6 cups water + 2 tbsp. Totole chicken powder or bouillon)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 slices fresh ginger
1 scallion, cut into 1" sections
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
Pinch (1/8 tsp.) white pepper

Ar's Dipping Sauce:
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
6 tbsp. water
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. sugar
2 Fresno chiles, seeded and sliced
2 tbsp. minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
2 scallions, finely chopped

Sliced scallions and chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Place the chicken broth and chicken thighs together in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the chicken thighs over 2-3 times during the cooking time. Turn off heat and set aside.

2. Heat 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and 1 tsp. sesame oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the garlic, ginger slices and scallion and toss 20-30 seconds until fragrant. Add the jasmine rice with a pinch of white pepper and saute 1-2 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the oil and is translucent.

3. Pour the rice into a clay pot and top with the chicken thighs; add 2 cups of the chicken poaching broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is just cooked through. If you don't have a clay pot, no worries - just use the same saute pan (as long as it's deep enough) or a pot, add the chicken and poaching liquid, cover, and cook as noted above. 

4. Combine all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

5. After 20 minutes, check the rice in the clay pot - if it's a little undercooked or on the dry side, add a few tablespoons of the reserved chicken broth, cover, and let sit for another 10-15 minutes.

6. Garnish the rice with sliced scallions and chopped cilantro, and serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.

Poach the chicken in 6 cups of chicken broth (bring to a boil first, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 1 hour until the stock is reduced by about 1/3). Turn the chicken thighs over a couple times during the cooking period. Turn off heat and set aside.

Totole is my fav brand of chicken powder to make chicken stock. 
You can substitute with chicken bouillon.

Aromatics for the rice: scallions, ginger slices, and whole smashed garlic cloves.

Saute the aromatics in 1 tbsp. vegetable oil and 1 tsp. sesame oil about 1-2 minutes, 
stirring frequently.

Add the raw rice and stir well to blend. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until
the rice is translucent and lightly toasted but not browned.

Pour the sautéed rice into a clay pot. 

Top with the poached chicken thighs, skin side up.

Pour in 2 cups of the reserved chicken stock. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to low. Continue cooking about 20 minutes or until the rice is just cooked through and fluffy.

For the dipping sauce: sliced Fresno chiles, minced scallions, cilantro, garlic, ginger, 
rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, water, and soy sauce.

After 20 minutes, lift the lid from the clay pot and check the rice. If it's still a little underdone, pour a few tablespoons of the reserved chicken stock around the edges, 
cover and let sit another 10-15 minutes.

Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro sprigs.

Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Caldo Verde (Portuguese-Style Soup with Kale, Potatoes and Sausage)

Caldo Verde is a Portuguese soup that traditionally consists of collard greens, potatoes, and pork sausage (e.g., Linguica or Chourico). The soup is hearty yet light (sounds like an oxymoron, but it really isn't), super flavorful, chock full of nutrients, and surprisingly easy to make. Comfort food at its best! My version is probably not as 'green' in color as the traditional because I happen to like using the drippings or fond from browning the sausage to make the soup base, which gives it a more golden-brown tint. Anyhoo, just try it cuz you'll like it, especially on a coldish fall or winter day.

1 lb. kale (I like to use the Tuscan/Lacinato variety), Swiss chard and/or collard greens
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
6 tbsp. olive oil
12 oz. Linguica or other smoked pork sausage (e.g., Kielbasa), cut into 1/4-1/2" slices
2 russet potatoes, peeled and halved, then sliced
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 cups water
Salt and pepper

1. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a medium pot (I use an enameled cast iron pot). Add the sausage slices and saute for 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned and the fat is rendered. Remove the sausage and set aside.

2. In the same pot, add 1 tbsp. oil and saute the onions until softened, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the sliced potatoes and saute until they  just start to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

4. Strip the leaves off of the stems of the kale. Stack the leaves on top of each other and then roll tightly. Slice the roll into thin slices.

5. Add the sliced kale to the soup pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are creamy and the kale is tender. Taste and season with up to 2 tsp. of salt.

6. Using a potato masher, lightly mash some of the potatoes to give the soup a slightly creamy texture. Add the sausage just before serving.

1 bunch of Lacinato or Tuscan kale, onion, garlic, and russet potatoes.

Thinly sliced kale leaves, chopped onion, and minced garlic.

Halve then slice the potatoes.

Linguica is readily available in most U.S. supermarkets. 
This is an 11-oz. package with two links, which I've cut into slices.

Brown the sausage slices. 

My fav brand of unsalted chicken stock.

Remove the browned sausage and set aside.

In the pot with the rendered sausage fat, saute the chopped onion for about 5 minutes, 
add the minced garlic, and cook until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the potato slices and saute until they just start to brown. 
Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. 

Add the sliced kale leaves. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer; continue
simmering for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes and kale are tender. 
Taste for seasoning (add up to 2 tsp. of salt as needed)

Using a potato masher, gently mash some of the potatoes in the soup 
to give it a light creamy texture.

Add the reserved sausage slices to the soup just before serving.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chicken Yakitori

Traditionally, Yakitori is a Japanese-style preparation of meat, usually chicken, on bamboo skewers grilled over high quality Binchotan oak charcoal and basted with a soy, mirin, sake, and sugar-based sauce (aka 'tare'). Chicken Yakitori from a really good Yakitori restaurant or an Izakaya (something along the lines of an informal Japanese gastropub) is an experience not to be missed since these establishments usually offer a wide array of chicken parts for you to select from, e.g., chicken thigh or breast meat, chicken meatballs, chicken skin (grilled until nicely crispy), chicken livers, chicken tail, chicken wing, chicken gizzards, etc. For the home cook, however, delicious Yakitori can be achieved by either broiling the skewered marinated chicken in the oven or grilling them on your outdoor BBQ and here I have versions for both methods using boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The prep is super easy, with the longest part being the 1 hour cooking time for the Yakitori sauce. 

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1 cup mirin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 scallions, cut into 1" sections
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 slices of ginger (or 1 tbsp. grated)
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese Chili pepper blend), for garnish

Sliced or minced scallions for garnish

1. Combine all the sauce ingredients together in a medium pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat; simmer for about 1 hour, uncovered, or until reduced by half and glossy in texture (should yield about 2 cups).

2. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature and strain. If not using right away, let the sauce cool, strain, then place in a container or bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3.  Pour about 1 cup of the cooled Yakitori sauce over the diced chicken. Mix well and let marinate 30 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Soak 12 bamboo skewers in water at least 1 hour before cooking. Skewer about 5-6 of the marinated chicken pieces onto each skewer, wedging them snugly next to each other to help keep them moist during cooking (gaps allow air to flow around the chicken pieces, which may cause them to dry out).

You can either grill or broil the chicken skewers in the oven:

1. Since I don't have a Yakitori grill, I just set up a regular grill with hot coals; place the skewers on a disposable aluminum grill pan and place on the grill grate. Grill the chicken about 3-4 minutes, then turn the skewers over.

2. Brush the chicken with some of the extra Yakitori sauce. After another 2-3 minutes, turn the skewers over again and brush the other side with Yakitori sauce.

3. As soon as the chicken is cooked through and the sauce lightly caramelized, remove the grill pan from the heat.

1. Preheat the oven to 475F.

2. Place the marinated chicken skewers on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil.

3. Broil the chicken in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, turning the skewers over once.

4. Adjust the cooking time as needed, making sure the chicken is just cooked through and lightly browned. Remove from the oven.

Sprinkle the cooked chicken with a little Shichimi Togarashi. Serve the skewers on plates with some extra Yakitori sauce and steamed white rice on the side.

Some other great sides are grilled or roasted asparagus, Japanese eggplants, and/or shishito peppers.

Scallion sections, grated ginger and garlic, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and brown sugar.

Combine all the sauce ingredients together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced 
by about one half and it is a glossy consistency.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Strained Yakitori sauce, cubed chicken, and bamboo skewers soaking in water.

Once the Yakitori sauce has cooled, pour 1 cup into the cubed chicken pieces 
and toss well to combine. Marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Skewer 5-6 chicken pieces onto each bamboo skewer. If broiling, broil at 475F for 10-15 minutes, turning over once. 

For grilling: place the marinated chicken skewers onto a perforated grill pan and place over a hot grill. Cook Grill the chicken about 3-4 minutes, then turn the skewers over. 

Brush the chicken with some of the extra Yakitori sauce and turn the skewers over 
again after 2-3 minutes. Brush the other side with sauce.

Sprinkle the chicken with a little  Shichimi Togarashi.
Serve with steamed white rice, extra Yakitori sauce, grilled eggplant 
and/or Shishito peppers on the side. Garnish with chopped scallions. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Argentine-Style Meat Empanadas

Empanadas are stuffed pastries (usually savory) that are a staple in Spain and many Latin American countries. In this version I've made Argentine-style empanadas using a mixture of ground beef, onions garlic, bell peppers, paprika, cumin, cayenne, golden raisins, green olives and tomato paste (aka, 'picadillo') and wrapped them in puff pastry dough - a much quicker but still delicious alternative to making your own empanada dough. 

Makes 24 Empanadas

3 boxes (17.3 oz. each) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed in the refrigerator

1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)

2 onions, chopped
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 tbsp. sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sliced green olives (about 20), I like to use Manzanillos
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
Salt & pepper

1. Heat 2-3 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the ground beef, minced garlic, and chopped green bell pepper; saute until the beef is mostly cooked through.

3. Add the paprika, cumin, cayenne, sugar, oregano, vinegar, raisins, sliced green olives, scallions, and tomato paste. Saute for 10-15 minutes until the beef is cooked through and the flavors have melded. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed. Turn off heat and set aside to cool. The mixture can be refrigerated for 3-4 days before using even frozen for later use.

4. Remove the puff pastry sheets from the refrigerator. Place one pastry sheet (there should be 2 in each box) on a piece of lightly floured waxed paper. Cut four 5" circles out of the puff pastry sheet (I use a small glass bowl with a 5" diameter to cut out the pastry rounds). Repeat with the remaining puff pastry sheets until you have 24 rounds.

5. Place one heaping tablespoon of the meat filling onto each pastry round. Crimp the edges to seal. Place the empanadas on a sheet tray lined with non-stick aluminum foil. 

*You can also freeze the empanadas for later (place them in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze for 20-30 minutes until cold; place the empanadas into Ziploc bags, seal and freeze - to reheat, place the frozen empanadas on a baking sheet and bake at 400F until golden brown). 

6. Preheat the oven to 400F.

7. Brush the top of each empanada with egg wash. Bake 20 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden brown. Best served hot. Although some recipes call for a dipping sauce such as chimichurri, I think these pastries are savory enough as is. 

Distilled white vinegar manzanilla olives, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, and ground cumin.

Sliced olives, chopped scallions, minced garlic, chopped onion, vinegar, smoked paprika,
sweet paprika, and ground cumin.

Saute the onions in 2-3 tbsp. of oil until softened; season with salt and pepper.

Add the ground beef, garlic, green bell pepper and saute until the beef is mostly cooked through.

Add the paprika, cumin, cayenne, sugar, and oregano

Add the vinegar, raisins, sliced green olives, scallions, ant tomato paste. Saute for 10-15 minutes until the beef is cooked through and the flavors have melded. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed. 

Let the beef mixture cool to room temperature. Refrigerate if not using right away.

Cut out four 5" rounds from each puff pastry sheet.

Place one heaping tablespoon of filling onto each pastry round. 

Fold the pastry over the filling and crimp the edges. 
You can press the edges with the tine of a fork to give them a nice pattern.

Place the empanadas on a a non-stick aluminum foil lined baking sheet; brush the tops with egg wash. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until the empanadas are golden brown. 

Remove empanadas to a serving plate and serve while still hot.