Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Country Captain

From what I could gather through some cursory research, Country Captain has its origins in India, but was really popularized and has become a staple in Southern U.S. cuisine, especially in the low country of South Carolina and Georgia. Who woulda thunk? But then, it's a really homey, hearty comfort food that would please virtually any palate: not spicy hot at all, but redolent of a mild, sweet curry, along with tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, celery, and golden raisins, all served over steamed white rice and garnished with lightly toasted sliced almonds. As for why the dish is called "Country Captain," here's a blurb from Wiki:

"Country captain originated in India as a simple spatchcock poultry or game recipe involving onions and curry and possibly enjoyed by British officers. One theory is that an early 19th-century British sea captain, possibly from the East India Companyworking in the spice trade introduced it to the American South via the port of Savannah. The dish remains popular amongst the communities in Mumbai, India. The "country" part of the dish's name dates from when the term referred to things of Indian origin instead of British, and so the term "country captain" would have meant a captain of Indian origin, a trader along the coasts of India. Others claim that the word "captain" in the title is simply a corruption of the word "capon"."

Here's my version:

6 slices bacon, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 cups diced celery
3 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated or minced ginger
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. curry powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup golden raisins or currants
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
2 cups water
1 28-oz can whole, diced or crushed tomatoes
2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, lightly toasted
Chopped scallions for garnish

Steamed basmati or jasmine rice

1. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large enameled cast iron pot; add the chopped bacon and cook until lightly browned; remove to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, reserving the drippings. 

2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat the drippings in the pan over medium high heat and add half the seasoned chicken, skin side down. Let brown for about 5 minutes, turn over with tongs, and brown another 5 minutes. Remove the browned chicken to a platter and repeat with the remaining chicken thighs. 

3. Remove all but 1/4 cup of the drippings in the pan (reserve the rest for use in case the pan gets too dry). Heat over medium high heat and add the diced onion and saute until lightly browned. Add the celery, bell peppers, jalapeño pepper, garlic and ginger; cook about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt, pepper, and raisins; cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves and chopped parsley.

4. Add tomatoes and 2 cups water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and carefully add the browned chicken thighs, skin side up on top of the sauce, keeping the skin part just above the liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper, as needed.

5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the entire pot of chicken in the oven and cook 15-20 minutes to crisp up the skin. 

6. In the meantime, place the sliced almonds in a small dry skillet (don't add oil) over medium heat. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds or until just lightly toasted. Remove the almonds from the pan immediately to a small bowl so that they don't burn in the pan. Set aside.

6. Plate the chicken onto individual serving dishes, serve with steamed white rice on the side, and garnish with chopped scallions, reserved bacon bits, and toasted sliced almonds, if desired. 

 Brown the bacon and remove to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, reserving the drippings. Save the bacon bits to garnish the finished dish.

 8-pack of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.

 Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt & pepper. 

Chopped celery, green bell peppers, onion, jalapeño pepper, garlic, ginger, and 2 bay leaves. 

 Brown the chicken in 2 batches in the reserved drippings. Remove and set aside. 

 Remove all but 1/4 cup of the drippings in the pan (reserve the rest in case the pan gets too dry) and add celery, bell peppers, jalapeño pepper, garlic and ginger; cook about 5 minutes.

 Add the curry powder, salt, pepper, and raisins; cook 2-3 minutes.

 Stir in bay leaves and chopped parsley.

Add the tomatoes and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. 

Carefully place the browned chicken on top of the stew, making sure not to cover the skin. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Sliced almonds, golden raisins, curry powder, and diced tomatoes.  

Place the pot in a preheated 350F oven and cook 15-20 minutes or until the chicken skin crisps up.

Toast the almond slices in a small skillet and set aside. 

Plate and serve with rice on the side; garnish with toasted almonds, chopped scallions, and reserved bacon bits, if desired.  

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Grilled Sea Scallops with Italian Salsa Verde

Salsa verde or "green sauce" is often associated with the Mexican tomatillo-based salsa. But the Italians have their own distinctive version, which typically consists of flat leaf parsley, capers, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and sometimes even anchovy. It's an herby, puckery, lemony vinaigrette-like sauce that's a great accompaniment to steak, poultry, and even seafood like these grilled scallops. 

Salsa Verde:
2/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups Italian or flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup drained capers
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. lemon juice (half a lemon)
1 tsp. lemon zest (from half a lemon)
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 anchovy filets, optional

2 lbs. sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
Kosher salt and black pepper
Olive oil

1. Add all the salsa verde ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse for 10-15 seconds or until just smooth. Set aside.

2. Rinse the scallops and pat dry with paper towels. Place onto a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss gently to combine. 

3. Place the scallops onto a grilling rack and grill over medium high heat, turning over at least once, until browned and just cooked through. Do NOT overcook. 

4. Serve the scallops with the salsa verde on the side. 

For the salsa verde: lemon juice, Italian parsley, olive oil, white wine vinegar, capers, garlic & lemon zest. 

Place the salsa verde ingredients into a blender and blend briefly until just smooth.  

Salsa verde. 

Sea scallops tossed in olive oil and seasoned with a little salt and pepper.  

 Grill the scallops on a grill rack over medium high heat, turning over at least once, until browned and just cooked through.

 Serve the scallops with the salsa verde and a grilled lemon half on the side. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Spiced Turkish-Style Grilled Beef Kofta (Meatball) Kebabs

According to Wiki, Kofta is "a family of meatball or meatloaf dishes found in South AsianMiddle EasternBalkan, and Central Asian cuisine. In the simplest form, koftas consist of balls of minced or ground meat—usually beef, chickenlamb, or pork—mixed with spices and/or onions." I took inspiration and adapted a recipe for kofta (koftesi) from the Turkish cookbook Sultan's Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan. I think I put too much of the meat mixture around the skewers first time around since they took an inordinate amount of time to cook on the grill, so I will adjust next time by using less meat on the skewers or perhaps even rolling the meat mixture into meatballs. Regardless of their form, these kebabs are redolent of spices and incredibly delicious, especially with a side Turkish Shepherd's salad.*

4 slices day old bread, crusts removed
1/3 cup milk

2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 small red or white onion, grated (about 1/4 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
2 tsp. ground Turkish red pepper or Aleppo pepper
1 tsp. ground sumac
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

*Turkish Shepherd's Salad  http://thegrubfiles.blogspot.com/2018/06/turkish-style-shepherds-salad-with.html

1. Place the bread with crusts removed into a bowl. Pour in milk and let soak to soften. 

2. In the meantime, soak some flat bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes (that way they won't burn on the grill). 

3. In the meantime, make the Turkish Shepherd's salad, cover, and set aside.

4. Add all the remaining ingredients to the softened bread and mix together gently (I use my hands with disposable gloves). Shape the mixture into 2" meatballs and skewer 3-4 on each skewer. You can also shape a handful of the meat mixture evenly around each skewer. 

5. Place the skewers on a grill rack and grill over medium high heat, turning over several times, until cooked through.

6. Serve with the Turkish Shepherd's salad on the side. Other good condiments are tahini-yogurt sauce and/or a chunky tomato sauce. 

Cut the crusts off the bread slices.

Soak the bread in 1/3 cup of milk. 

I used Kobe-style ground beef for the recipe, but you can substitute with regular ground beef (just not the super lean variety).  

Ground cumin, black pepper, salt, sweet paprika, Aleppo pepper and ground Turkish sumac.

Add all the ingredients together with the ground beef. 

 Stir the mixture together gently until blended through. 
Here I formed a handful of the meat mixture around each skewer. Do not put on too much meat or it will take too long to cook. You can also form the meat into meatballs before skewering. 

 Place the skewers on a grill rack and grill over medium high heat, turning over several times, until cooked through.
 Serve with some Turkish Shepherd's salad on the side. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Taiwanese-Style Street Corn with Sacha Barbecue Sauce

This recipe is my rendition of the grilled corn I remember from childhood that we used to buy from street vendors in Taiwan. If memory serves me correctly, some of the vendors used lard and perhaps even fried shallots in their seasoning for the grilled corn. The corn grown in Taiwan back in the day was what my dad called "cow corn," basically not the sweet, golden, succulent varieties we are used to eating here in the U.S., but rather the more whitish varieties that were neither succulent nor all that in the flavor department. So slathering this bland, chewy veggie with an aromatic, savory, delectable sauce and then grilling it made all the sense in the world. So here you have it - corn that ain't just for cows anymore...

1 cup Sacha Barbecue Sauce
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1-2 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. Garlic powder
2 tsp. sugar

4-6 ears of corn

1. Combine all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

2. Husk and remove the silk from the corn, if needed. Rinse the corn and set aside.

3. Heat up your grill and place the corn on the grates. Grill for 3-5 minutes, then turn over with tongs. Brush the top of the corn liberally with the BBQ sauce and cook another 3-5 minutes. 

4. Turn the corn over again with tongs and brush the other side liberally with the BBQ sauce. Grill for another 30 seconds to 1 minute then remove to a platter and serve. 

Garlic powder, Sacha BBQ sauce, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. 

You can find Sacha Jiang or Chinese BBQ sauce in most Asian markets. 
This is the same sauce we use as the dipping sauce for hot pot. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Turkish-Style Shepherd's Salad with Parsley, Cucumber, Red Onion, Tomato, Sumac and Aleppo Pepper (Coban Salatasi)

This is my rendition of Turkish Shepherd's salad, a chopped salad that typically consists of tomato, cucumber, red onion, lemon juice, olive oil, assorted herbs, ground sumac and Turkish or Aleppo pepper. Other traditional ingredients include diced green bell pepper, chopped dill and/or mint, feta cheese, and Turkish or Greek black olives. This delicious and refreshing summer salad is a great accompaniment to meat dishes like Kofta (Middle Eastern meatballs/kebabs), but I'd be happy as a clam to eat this all day long as is. Just sayin!


1 cup chopped Italian or flat-leaf parsley
1 small hothouse or English cucumber, diced
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. ground sumac
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)

1. Place the sliced red onion in a colander and sprinkle with some Kosher salt; toss to combine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes and rinse with water. Shake well to remove as much water as possible. This step will help to tone down the sharp flavor of the onion.

2. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. 

3. Let sit for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld. 

Ground Sumac is available from Penzey's Spices online.  

Place the sliced onion in a colander and sprinkle with some Kosher salt. 
Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Rinse well and shake dry. 

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl.

Let sit for at least 1 hour before serving (if longer than that, cover with 
plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use).

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Shrimp & Cheesy Grits

My co-worker, Howard, ever the intrepid traveler, brought me some stone-ground yellow grits from South Carolina and I thought - man, I have to do this ingredient justice! What better thing to do than a traditional Southern Shrimp & Grits? Having never made this dish before, my first attempt was pretty good but I think just a smidgeon too soupy as attested by the photo below. So I've adjusted the ingredients below for another future crack at this fantabulous concoction. 

Cheesy Grits:
1 cup stone-ground grits
4 cups water
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup grated medium or sharp cheddar cheese
Pinch of black pepper

1. Bring 4 cups of water and 2 cups of milk to a boil in a medium stock pot. Whisk in grits, and bring back up to a boil over medium high heat, whisking frequently. 

2. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to a very low simmer. Simmer for 1 hour or until the grits are very soft and thick, using a whisk or wooden spoon to scrape up the bottom occasionally. 

3. Stir in 1 tbsp. butter, grated cheese and a pinch of black pepper, whisking to combine. Remove from heat, press the top with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper to prevent skin from forming, cover the pan with a lid to keep warm, and set aside until ready to serve.

Stone-ground yellow grits from South Carolina. Stone ground takes at least an hour to cook versus the instant stuff, but is totally worth the extra time and effort. 

Bring the water and milk to a boil in a medium pan and add the grits.  

Stir and bring to a boil over medium high heat; reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook for 1 hour or until the grits are tender, scraping up the bottom occasionally with a whisk or wooden spoon.

 Stir in the butter.

Stir in the cheese and a pinch of black pepper. place a sheet of plastic 
wrap or parchment over the top to prevent a skin from forming, cover and set aside.


2 lbs. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined (reserve the shells)

Creole Seasoning Mix:
1 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika

Shrimp Stock:
Reserved shrimp shells
4 cups water

6 slices bacon, chopped

8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and cut into small dice
1 large shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 scallions, chopped  
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes of Crystal Hot Sauce or Tabasco
2 tbsp. flour
Pat of butter
2 tbsp. lemon juice (1/2 lemon)

Chopped scallion and flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1. Combine the Creole seasoning ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. 

2. Place the reserved shrimp shells in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the stock has reduced by half. Strain and set aside.

3. Pat the peeled and deveined shrimp dry with paper towels, place in a bowl and toss with the creole seasoning. 

4. Cook the chopped bacon in a large pot over medium heat until rendered, stirring occasionally. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a small bowl; set aside.

5. Pour off all but 2 tbsp. of the bacon fat in the pan and bring back up to medium heat. Add the seasoned shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally until they just turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

6. Add remaining rendered bacon fat back to pan (3 tbsp. - if not enough, add olive oil) and heat to medium high. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until browned. 

7. Add the diced green bell pepper, minced shallot, garlic, thyme, and chopped scallions. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened; stir in the Worcestershire sauce and a couple dashes of hot sauce. 

8. Sprinkle 2 tbsp. flour over the vegetable mixture to make a roux; cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to blend and cook out the raw taste of the flour. 

9. Add 1-2 cups  shrimp stock and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and cook 2-3 minutes or until the stock starts to thicken. Stir in a pat of butter. Add the reserved cooked shrimp and stir to combine.  

10. Turn off heat and stir in 2 tbsp. lemon juice. 

11. To serve: Spoon the shrimp over the grits and garnish chopped scallions, chopped flat leaf parsley and bacon bits, if desired. 

Pat the shelled & deveined shrimp dry with paper towels. 

Make the shrimp stock by combining the shrimp shells with 4 cups of water.

Simmer until reduced by half.

Strain the stock and set aside.

Toss the shrimp with the Creole seasoning and set aside.

Sliced mushrooms, shallots, lemon, fresh thyme, black pepper, garlic powder, celery salt, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and chopped bacon.

Render the fat from the chopped bacon.

Chopped scallion, thyme leaves, garlic and shallot.

Saute the shrimp in 2 tbsp. bacon fat until they just turn pink. Remove and set aside. 

Saute the sliced mushrooms until lightly browned. 

Add the chopped scallions, garlic, shallots and green bell pepper and saute briefly until slightly softened. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. flour and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the reserved shrimp stock and bring to a boil; cook until the sauce has thickened. 

Stir in the reserved cooked shrimp.

Add a pat of butter. 

Turn off heat and add the lemon juice. 

Serve the shrimp over hot grits; garnish with chopped scallions, parsley and/or bacon bits as desired.