Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Salty, Sweet, Tangy: Chicken Braised in Soy Sauce and Lemon, Roasted Vegetables

Here's a new favorite chicken recipe. It's really easy, and it uses barely any ingredients--probably lemons are the hardest thing in the ingredients list to procure, and those aren't very hard to procure at all. Bittman likens it to a "simplified teriyaki," but I think it's just the opposite: what you get here is something much more nuanced and complex than the gloopy sweet stuff that comes when you order teriyaki (of course, I haven't made the teriyaki recipe in How to Cook Everything, so who knows). Apologies to Julia, Alice and Talia who all came over to eat this one night last winter and never saw it posted on the here. It's just that... well... it was way, way, better this time.

Chicken Braised in Soy Sauce and Lemon

Take chicken--either a whole one cut up into 8 parts, or any combination of parts thereof. Heat oil in skillet (you need to have a lid later on, so make sure that's not a problem). Season the chicken, then brown it in the oil, turning so they get nice even color. Remove from the pan.

Pour off most of the oil in the pan. Add garlic, let it soften, then add some lemon zest, cayenne, soy sauce, sugar, and water. Return the chicken to this mixture, letting it get nice and coated in the brothy sauce (or was it a saucy broth?). Turn the heat down so it bubbles gently, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes or so, until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken to a platter of some sort, stir lemon juice into broth, and serve with the chicken.

I also roasted some potatoes and onions to sop up some of the broth. This is a huge and easy weeknight meal, with leftovers that reheat damn well at work!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Fest: Fiery Pumpkin Seeds, Roasted Pumpkin, Pureed Vegetable Soup without Cream

It's pumpkin season.


Claire really wanted to come over and make pumpkin seeds. They're a lot of work but they're delicious. We got two huge pumpkins and scooped the seeds out, rinsed them, and roasted them. Pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite snacks, and one of the first things I ever made from my mother's copy of the original How to Cook Everything. The Fiery Pumpkin Seeds was cut from the book in the 10th anniversary edition, but it's pretty simple: cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. I add chipotle chili powder, and you can add whatever spices you like, but the cumin-cayenne mix is really addictive. Roast 'til golden brown, and keep an eye on them, because they go from perfect to burnt really quickly.


Later that night, it was suggested by Eva that I could roast the rest of the pumpkin. I started hacking away the skin with a knife like the green pumpkin I cooked in Philly and sliced it up into oven fry size. I tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them at 450 until they were turning brown. They were pretty tasty, especially with the mayo-mustard-sriracha dip. That stuff is so good I'm not even telling you the recipe.* The roasted pumpkin was delicious. There are no pictures of the finished product, but here's some of the raw pumpkin on the baking sheet.


But these pumpkins were so huge, I couldn't even fit a whole half of one on my largest baking sheet. The next day, the other pumpkin was just sitting on the table, staring at me, so I peeled it (by far the worst part of making winter squash, particularly the pumpkinlike varieties), cut it up into smaller pieces and turned to the Pureed Vegetable Soup without Cream recipe. Seriously, this book has everything. Even the cut Fiery Pumpkin Seeds recipe is replaced with Roasted Nuts with Oil and its Pumpkin Seed variation. The recipe, which is Bittman assures us can be made with any winter squash, is made with carrots in the main version. You cook your veggies in butter or oil with some onions and whatever vegetables you have laying around (I just had onions and the pumpkin) until they soften, then add water or stock and cook until the vegetables are really tender. Then, you can puree however you like: blender, food processor, masher, ricer, food mill, back of a spoon, whatever. I used my brand new hand blender. I love it--it's probably the most fun thing to use in my whole kitchen, and way easier to use and clean than the food processor, which is how I would have done this before. (Thanks, Mom!)


The soup is pretty good. It's not my favorite, but I'm glad that I now have this technique because it's promising--I want any excuse to use the stick blender and it's soup weather.

*OK, fine. The recipe is mayonnaise, mustard, and--wait for it--sriracha.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Float On: Tomato Pesto Sauce

Remember the frozen pesto from before? It met its delicious end this weekend.


20 Quick and Easy Ways to Spin Fast Tomato Sauce, #12. Stir in as much or as little pesto as you like after the sauce finishes cooking.


New favorite.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Philly Weekend: Braised and Glazed Winter Squash

Last week I went back to Philly to hang with Carly, Rob, and their daughter Lily, who's now 9 months old and by far my cutest cousin (sorry, Lev). When I arrived, Carly asked me if I could do anything with a squash that their neighbor had given them. It was one of the craziest looking squashes I've ever seen, like an enormous bright green pumpkin.


Some research on the Serious Eats boards led me to believe (I'm not 100% sure this is correct, so feel free to chime in below in the comments) that the mutant vegetable was a kabocha, also referred to as a Japanese pumpkin. Bittman's advice in How to Cook Everything is that even though winter squashes are all different, they're interchangeable in recipes--they may need a bit more or less cooking time or liquid as they cook, but you can feel free to mix and match. So that's what I did: I took the recipe for braised and glazed winter squash with soy variation, and used this enormous green pumpkin instead of the usual butternut, which Bittman warned me would be better because it's "easier to deal with than the others."

That's probably true. Peeling this thing was a pain in the ass, and I tried roasting its seeds thinking they'd be just like pumpkin seeds. They were not. They tasted weird and cooked really unevenly, so some ended up soggy and others were burnt to a crisp.


For the squash, you cut the vegetable up into cubes, then heat some oil in a pan with garlic. After the garlic starts to cook, you add the squash, some water, and some soy sauce and salt and pepper. Let this simmer, covered, until the squash is tender. Bittman says this takes about 20 minutes, but with the green pumpkin, which I suppose is much more dense than butternut squash, it took over an hour and still wasn't as tender as I would have liked. It was pretty tasty though.


My camera died before dinner was ready, so there's no photo of the finished product this time; instead, I give you this picture of Lily playing with a pumpkin.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Another Pizza Party: Various and Varied Pies

After work, my pal Melanie and I decided to make pizza for dinner. We got some dough from Whole Foods (more on that later) and picked up a bunch of toppings, to add to things I already had in the house, as well as a healthy amount of wine. Talia and Ryan came by and we had a veritable party of pizza on our hands.


So, we originally planned on making 4 medium sized pies, but the dough from Whole Foods was way too cold to work with, so Talia (she's a professional, y'all!) broke the dough balls up into smaller pieces and put them on top of the oven so they'd proof faster (she also taught me the term "proof"). After a while they were warm enough to roll out, stretch, top and finally bake.

I've made the dough myself before, and I've also bought it from my local pizza place. This was the first time I tried the dough at Whole Foods. It's the same stuff they use for their prepared pizza in the store, and it's very good. But it was more expensive (only by a dollar or so but still), and it was not immediately ready to work with, a huge problem as we were just off work and really starting to get hungry. When you go to a pizza place, their dough is proofed and totally ready to go. And it's cheaper. And it's probably more convenient than Whole Foods. Win-win-win! Glad I tried the Whole Foods dough, but probably not going to do it again.


So, on to the pies. First up, we had Caramelized Onions and Vinegar (which I've made before). For this, you make Bitty's (can I call him Bitty? I saw Mario Batali do it on that terrible show they were on together and I kind of love it, but I'm not Mario Batali, so...) recipe for caramelized onions, and then stir in a tablespoon or so of good balsamic vinegar. This goes on the pizza, and the pizza goes in the oven. Do not underestimate this simple topping--it's addictive.


Next was a more traditional pizza, at least by my provincial New York thinking. I had some tomato sauce with turkey sausage in it leftover from pasta dinner the night before, so we put that on the dough along with some smoked mozzarella. This was good. Very good. The smoked mozzarella was something I was not certain about, but it's now going to be a fixture at every pizza party.

Tomato smoked mozz pizza

Then, a pesto pie. Once again, having pesto in the freezer ready to go is a godsend.


I just defrosted it, spread it on the dough, and then topped it with some sweet yellow grape tomatoes from the market. And some more smoked mozzarella. Again, delicious. What's not to like?


The last pie was olives and rosemary and a bit of olive oil. It was good, but certainly not the favorite of the night. Following that one, we started experimenting, making one with just olive oil, and another with a bit of parmesan and the leftover smoked mozz. Really, the main thing here is that you can't really go too wrong, and you should try anything that suits your fancy. There's about 30 variations in How to Cook Anything, and many more than that if you're feeling creative. Have a pizza party today. If you buy the dough pre-made, it's actually a pretty quick meal, and you don't need all the crap everyone tells you that you MUST have, like a peel and pizza stone.