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. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thai-Style Pork Spareribs with Spicy Thai Cilantro-Mint-Lime Dipping Sauce

This recipe was inspired by one that my sis Elaine had made before for one of our family get-togethers. I marinated the ribs in a Thai-style marinade, then roasted them low and slow in the oven until super tender. To give the ribs a little color, you can either remove the foil, crank up the heat and roast them for a few more minutes in the oven at the end of the cooking period, or brown them over a charcoal grill. The dipping sauce, comprised of fresh lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, scallions, jalapeño peppers, chopped mint, and cilantro, is also Thai-inspired. Grilled asparagus, steamed Jasmine rice, or a Thai green papaya salad would make great accompaniments to this dish.

2-3 shallots, sliced (about 1 cup)
8-10 scallions, coarsely chopped
2" piece of fresh ginger, sliced
8 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (stems included)
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. water
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

2 scallions, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tsp. finely chopped mint
2-3 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. fish sauce
1/3 cup lime juice (2 limes)
1/4 tsp. black pepper

One rack of pork spareribs, silver skin removed

1. Place all the marinade ingredients together in a blender and pulse until well blended.

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

3. Place the spareribs into an extra large Ziploc bag; add the marinade, squeeze out as much air out of the bag as you can, and zip to close. Massage the marinade around the spareribs thoroughly. Let marinate at room temperature for 2 hours or in the refrigerator for 5-6 hours. 

4. Preheat the oven to 300F. Place the ribs and marinade into a roasting pan and cover tightly with foil. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  

5. Remove the foil from the pan, crank the heat to 400F, and return the ribs back to the oven and roast 5-7 minutes or until the ribs are lightly browned. Alternatively, you can grill the ribs briefly over a charcoal fire just before serving.

6. Remove the ribs to a chopping board and cut into serving sized pieces. Serve with the chili-herb dipping sauce on the side. 

Other great sides are grilled asparagus, steamed or fried jasmine rice, or green papaya salad. 

Sliced ginger, garlic, chopped red onion, lime, jalapeños, scallions, and cilantro

Sugar, soy sauce, vegetable oil, fish sauce and black pepper.

Blend the marinade ingredients together in a blender or food processor.

Pork spareribs.

Place the spareribs and marinade together in an extra large Ziploc-type bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible, seal the bag, the massage the marinade onto the meat. Marinate 2 hours at room temperature of 4-6 hours in the frig. 

Place the ribs and marinade into a roasting pan and cover well with foil. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 300F. 

Place the dipping sauce ingredients together in a bowl. 

Stir well to combine and set aside.

Once the ribs are done roasting you can brown them by cranking the oven heat up to 400F, remove the foil, and place the pan back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes. Alternatively, you can brown the ribs over a charcoal grill. 

Slice the ribs and serve with the dipping sauce on the side. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Grilled Asparagus with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, and Shichimi Togarashi

For grilled asparagus, I usually just toss the spears with some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. But for this Asian-inspired version, I adapted a recipe from Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat's The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables. The seasonings are soy sauce, sesame oil and Shichimi Togorashi (a Japanese chili spice blend available in many Asian markets and through Amazon). If you don't have a grill or just don't want to go through the hassle of firing up a grill, you can also roast these in the oven. So simple and so good! I can eat these all day long as is or serve them as a side dish to a main meat course. 

1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed (feel free to use either thick or thin spears)
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. Shichimi Togarashi

1. Place the trimmed asparagus on a foil-lined baking sheet. 

2. Toss with the sesame oil, soy sauce and Shichimi Togarashi.

3. Set up your grill or preheat your oven to 375F.

4. Place a perforated disposable aluminum tray (if you have one) over the grill grate. Using tongs, place the asparagus spears in a single layer over the tray and grill for 5-10 minutes or until just crisp-tender (if roasting in the oven, place the asparagus on the baking sheet into the oven and roast for 5-10 minutes or until just tender). 

5. Serve as a side or as is. 

Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil and Shichimi Togarashi in a small bowl. 

Toss the trimmed asparagus spears with the soy sauce mixture and place on a grilling pan. Grill for 5-10 minutes or until the asparagus is crisp-tender and lightly browned. You can also roast these in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 375F.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Steak, Ale and Mushroom Pie

Well after our trip to the UK this past June, British food (especially pub fare) is actually really starting to grow on me. I've already done a rendition of Bangers and Mash, and now here's my version of Steak, Ale and Mushroom Pie. My first taste of this dish was at The Village Inn in Mumbles, Swansea, Wales http://www.villageinnmumbles.com/dine.html - think hearty beef stew (minus the potatoes) in pie form. I opted to use puff pastry dough rather than making the traditional pie crust, used sirloin instead of the usual beef chuck, and Newcastle brown ale rather than a dark ale such as Guinness. Can't go wrong with that! I think I'm gonna try my hand at Bubble and Squeak next time around.

1.1 lb. package of puff pastry (these come frozen, so thaw in the frig before using)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lbs. sirloin steak, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. flour

1 cup ale or beer (I like to use Newcastle brown ale)
4 cups unsalted beef broth
Salt & pepper

2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

8 oz. (5 slices) bacon, cut into small dice
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup of cooking liquid
3 tbsp. flour

Six 5" disposable aluminum pie tins
1 egg, lightly beaten 

1. Heat 2 tbsp. vegetable oil in a cast iron or other heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the sirloin cubes, season with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides (cook in batches if needed so as not to overcrowd the pot - otherwise, the meat will steam and not brown).

2. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside (meat does not have to be cooked through, just browned on the outside).

3. If the pot is dry, add a little extra oil and saute the chopped onion, carrots and garlic over medium high heat until the veggies have softened. Stir in 2 tsp. of brown sugar. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp. of flour and stir well to combine. 

4. Add the ale or beer and the beef broth. Bring up to a boil and season with salt and pepper.

5. Tie the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and parsley sprigs together in a bundle with kitchen twine (aka, bouquet garni) and drop into the pot. Remove 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is really tender.

6. In the meantime, heat 1-2 tsp. of oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the diced bacon and sliced mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon and mushrooms are lightly browned and cooked through. Add the mushroom-bacon mix to the pot of beef about 1 1/2 hours into the beef's total cooking time and continue simmering the mixture, covered.

7. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid (should be cooled by now) with 3 tbsp. of flour and mix well.

8. Bring the beef-mushroom pot to a boil and stir in the broth-flour mixture. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened. Turn off heat and remove the herb bundle/bouquet garni. Let the mixture cool and refrigerate before using. It's actually best to let this sit in the frig one or two days before filling the pies so that the flavors have time to meld. You can also freeze the mixture from 2-3 months before using.

9. Preheat the oven to 400F. 

10. Cut out six 5" rounds from the puff pastry sheets.

11. Ladle the beef-mushroom mixture into 6 pie tins and top each with a pastry round, crimping the edges. * Use a paring knife to make a couple slits into each pastry crust; use the tines of a fork and press down on the edges of the pastry crust to seal. Brush the top with the beaten egg yolk.

12. Place the pie tins onto a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is browned and the filling bubbling. Remove and serve right away while still hot. 

*You can also freeze the unbaked pies: cover well with plastic wrap and then foil. Take them out of the freezer, let thaw, brush with egg wash, and then bake as noted above. 

Puff pastry sheets, readily available in the frozen food section of most markets.

 Sirloin steak.

Diced bacon, carrots, onion, garlic and mushrooms. 

Cut the sirloin into large chunks.

Brown the beef cubes and season with salt and pepper. Remove the meat and set aside.

In the same pot, add the diced onion (if the pan is dry, add a little extra oil).

Add the diced carrots and garlic, and cook until the veggies have softened; stir in the brown sugar. 

Stir in 2 tbsp. of flour. 

Add the ale and beef broth and bring to a boil.

Add the bundle of bay leaves, thyme and parsley (bouquet garni). 
Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 2 hours or until the beef is tender.

In the meantime, saute the mushrooms and bacon. 

When the mushrooms and bacon are cooked through, add to the pot of beef (about 1 1/2 hours into the cooking time). Continue cooking on simmer, covered, for another 30 minutes. 

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid with 3 tbsp. of flour. 

After 2 hours of cooking, bring the pot back up to a boil and stir in the flour-stock mixture. Stir constantly for a few minutes until the mixture has thickened. 

Remove the herb bundle/bouquet garni from the pot. 

Let the mixture cool and (ideally) refrigerate 1-2 days before using to let the flavors meld.

Ladle the beef-mushroom mixture into the baking tins and cover each with a round of pastry dough.

Cut a couple slits into each pastry crust to allow the pie to vent during baking. 

Use the tines of a fork to seal the edges of the pastry crust. 

Brush the top of each pie with egg wash (1 beaten egg).

Place the pies onto a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400F for 30 minutes or until the pies are nicely browned. Serve right away while they're hot.