Monday, March 30, 2009

Asadong Manok (Tangy Chicken Stew)

Last night, I was looking for a low-maintenance chicken recipe that would minimize prep and at-stove time while maximizing flavor and Fallout 3: The Pitt-playing. We had everything needed for this simple but flavorful chicken stew (original recipe from Filipino Cooking Here and Abroad; my version - which increases the amount of garlic, tomatoes and vinegar relative to the amount of chicken - below):
  • 1-1/2-2 lbs. chicken thighs or other assorted parts
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (prefer cane, used plain white since that's all I had)
  • 4-6 plump cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil (I used peanut oil in this case)
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 14. oz. can tomatoes, drained and crushed
  • 1 cup water - produces lots and lots of sauce (original recipe has 1 cup of water for 3-4 lbs. of chicken)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
Marinade the chicken with the vinegar and garlic for at least 30 minutes.

Place the oil in a skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and onions, then saute till the former are mushy (4-7 minutes).

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and add it to the pot. Saute, turning the chicken pieces now and then, till the meat colors slightly (5-10 minutes).

Add the reserved marinade, water, bay leaf and paprika to the pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes, until chicken is tender.

Correct seasoning and serve over white rice.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Minimalist Tomato-Garlic Soup

My tummy wasn't very happy, and I wanted a quick, satisfying soup that wasn't too rich. The revised How to Cook Everything offered a simple base recipe called "Boiled Water." It seemed like it would produce watery tomato sauce, but I gave it a try - and voila, reason #4,313 not to doubt the Bittman. Though my simplified version (below) didn't turn out quite as quickly as his, it was surprisingly flavorful and satisfying. The main differences between the recipe below and his are: more garlic, a bit more tomato and some Memmi (a stand in for the soy sauce that seems to have gone missing).
  • 6-10 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 14. oz. can tomatoes (I use Muir Glen), roughly chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 tsp. Memmi or soy sauce
Put all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the liquid bubble gently for a while, anywhere from 20-40 minutes (Bittman prefers 15, but I found that everything wasn't nearly broken down enough for my tastes. I waited till the garlic was almost stewed but the tomatoes hadn't completely lost their structural integrity).

Correct seasoning and serve.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Linguini with Spinach, Butter and Cream

I had yet another 10 oz. bag of spinach to use up, so I decided to try this recipe (only in the first edition of Bittman). Came out pretty well, but why am I so resistant to learning that 1 lb. of pasta is a TON (figuratively, for sure) of food? Next time, I'll probably add more spinach or decrease the amount of pasta - just as I said I would in the last similar recipe I posted. Ah well.
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, light cream or half-and-half (used the latter)
  • 1 lb. linguini (Bittman also recommends fettucini or spaghetti; I used whole wheat, though he didn't specify one way or another)
  • 2-3 tbsp. pasta cooking water, reserved
  • 1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for passing around (Bittman sticks with 1 cup total)
In a pasta pot-type piece of cookware, salt water and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook till it's tender but firm.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet that can be covered. Add the spinach, along with salt and pepper to taste. Cover, reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, till the spinach is very tender - about 10 min. Uncover, add the cream and cook gently for 5 minutes.

When the pasta's just about done, put the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter in a large, warm bowl. Add a couple of tbsp. of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and toss it with the butter and half the cheese.

Add the spinach sauce (After the step above, I tossed the pasta in the pan with the other half of the cheese - Bittman prefers reserving the extra 1/2 cup to pass at the table) and serve, passing around even more grated cheese.

Slow-Cooked Green Beans

Work last week left me no time to cook; now, thanks to the joys that are comp days, I can get back into it at a nice, leisurely pace. This Bittman recipe (which appears in both version of How to Cook Everything) seems a perfect way to use up many of the vegetables that are turning dubious; as a bonus, the long, mostly-uninterrupted cooking time (they're still simmering as I type this) allows ample opportunity to clean, do laundry and get one's heinie handed to oneself in MLB 2K9. The original recipe is below; my alterations are in italics.
  • 1-1/2 lb. green beans (12 oz., because that's how much I had on hand)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (1/8 cup)
  • 1 cup minced onion (scant 1-1/2 cups, since that's how many at-risk-of-spoiling ones I had)
  • 3/4 head garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled (see note below)
  • 1 cup cored, peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (1 cup chopped, mix of canned and at-risk fresh grape tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup water (1/3 cup)
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • freshly-squeezed lemon juice to taste (started with about 1 tbsp.)
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and cook over medium-low heat for at least 1 hour, checking every 15 minutes and adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary. Longer cooking, for up to 1 more hour, won't hurt (I can testify to the truth of this - mine cooked for just under 2 hours).

When the beans are very tender and all the liquid has been absorbed, they're ready. Correct seasoning and remove from heat.

Serve or at room temperature, sprinkled with a little more oil and a few more drops of lemon juice.

NOTE: This turned out well, though some of the stewed garlic cloves slipped out of their skin and left hard-to-fish-out husks. Maybe next time I'll peel the garlic and let it diffuse into the dish if it wants to.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bistek (Steak with Onions and Citrus-Soy Sauce)

While poking through my Gchat logs for old recipes, I came across this one, courtesy of the wonderful and funny Burnt Lumpia. Though I haven't made the dish since Oct. 30, 2008, I seem to have found it yummy. The version below incorporates my modifications.

  • 1 lb. sirloin beef, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup kalamansi juice (or lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 5-7 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tbsp. oil (I used peanut)
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Marinade the beef in the citrus juice, soy sauce and garlic for at least 30 minutes.

Put oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Remove meat from marinade, reserving the liquid. Sear the meat on all sides (4-5 minutes or so).
Remove meat from pan, place in a bowl, and set aside. Add the onion rings to the pan and saute for 3 minutes, adding more oil if necessary.

Pour the reserved marinade into the pan with the onions. Be sure to deglaze and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the black pepper to the sauce and correct seasoning. If the sauce is too salty, or too sour - or if you just want more sauce - add 1/2 cup of water. (Mine turned out a tad salty, but a few more squeezes of lemon fixed that.)

Return the meat to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. You can also thicken the sauce with cornstarch if you like.

Serve over white rice.

Wild Blossom

It's the first day of spring! That and the blooming cherry blossoms across the street put me in mind of this recipe, which won the New York Department of Consumer Affairs' third Sidewalk Cafe Drink Mix-Off (and which we drank a fair amount of last summer).
  • 2 oz. Plymouth gin (I used Hendricks once and Tanqueray another time; both were fine)
  • 3/4 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 3/4 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • grapefruit twist or wedge, to garnish, optional

Combine all ingredients (save the optional garnish, of course) in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.

Shake well, then pour into a glass. Garnish, if you like.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Fried Rice Chronicles, Vol. 2: The Meh Lab [MEH]

Time to clear out the sundries and dispose of excess day-old rice again. The final product turned out...alright, I guess. Lessons learned? More garlic. More anchovies. Frozen peas instead of canned, because khaki is a color that should be worn, not eaten.

Ah well. At least I got the idea for a new tag out of it.
  • 3 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot (about 1/2 cup), diced
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped (about 1 tbsp.)
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3-4 cups day-old rice, well-crumbled
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
Beat the eggs and set them aside (NOTE: The 2nd egg I cracked was my first-ever double yolker!).

Put the oil in the Dutch oven on high heat. When hot, add the onion and carrots. Cook for a minute or two, then add the anchovies. Turn down the heat if necessary and stir relentlessly for a minute or two more, till the anchovies are evenly distributed and at the point of disintegration; the vegetables should be soft, but not brown.

Add peas; stir around till warmed.

Add garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so (as Bittman advised, I wanted to keep the garlic flavor strong).

Add rice, stirring to coat it thoroughly with oil and distribute the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes, till rice is heated through.

Dig a well in the middle of the rice, and pour the egg into it. Belay the stirring and cook for a minute or so, until some of the eggs begin to solidify at the bottom, but the rest is still liquidy (maybe a minute?). Then, rapidly stir the egg into the rice mixture. (Bittman likes to scramble them fairly thoroughly before incorporating them into the rest of the dish, but I like the creamy, faux-risotto-y texture this method produces).

Season with salt and pepper; correct seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat.

Garnish with scallions and serve.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Chicken Garlic Stew

I was going to try a new chicken recipe, but we were all playing MLB 2K9 across the hall (my Yanks got spanked by the Indians, though fortunately Joba Chamberlain was not attacked by insects this time), and I wanted to minimize my at-stove presence. So I made this old standby (from Bittman) instead. It came out quite well (how can one go wrong with oodles of stewed garlic?) - John and I had it over white rice for a late dinner (after the ignominious defeat of our Nats by the Rockies), and some more is sitting under my desk in today's Mr. Bento. My tweaked version of the recipe is below:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-1/2 lbs. chicken thighs (1/2 of what the original recipe called for, but I like sauce)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • at least 2 heads of garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled (I used 3-1/2 small ones this time))
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice (double what Bittman calls for; I much prefer this to cinammon, which is also a possibility)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley (heaping)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (other options include stock and water)
Put olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown chicken well, turning when necessary. (This should take 10-12 minutes, but my pot was a bit too hot and the skin started sticking, so I peeled it off and abbreviated to about 6 mins.)

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper; add allspice, parsley, garlic and liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat till liquid is at a brisk simmer, then cover the pot and play more Xb leave unattended till chicken and garlic are very tender, at least 1 hour.

Uncover. Correct seasoning, and serve (Bittman defaults to bread; I default to white rice).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Bitter Heiress

While I am neither bitter nor an heiress, this recipe (NY Times) sounded intriguing. Plus I got to set something on fire. Alas, when we tried these out last weekend, all I managed to do was produce some citrusy-smelling charred bits. Both Kate (who I first made it for on Friday night) and John (who tried it on Saturday) were much better at successfully getting some of the oil to spatter. The drink itself is quite good - the sharp, bitter Campari contrasts nicely with the vaguely herbal smoothness of the Lillet and the sweet tang of the orange juice. The recipe, with my annotations, follows.
  • 3 oz. Lillet
  • 1 oz. orange juice (they ask for fresh-squeezed, but I've only tried this with oj-from-a-carton so far)
  • a good splash of Campari (anywhere from 1/2 to 1 tbsp. )
  • 2 pieces of orange peel
Put all the liquids in an ice-filled shaker and mix till the shaker's surface begins to frost over. Pour into a chilled glass. (Our prep work wasn't nearly as fancy, but the drinks turned out well nonetheless.)

Hold a piece of orange peel about 3 in. from the surface of the drink, with the orange bit facing it. Strike a match or a lighter flint and hold the flame between the peel and the drink. Squeeze the peel towards the flame in order to send a spray of citrus oil along the drink's surface.

Garnish with the other orange peel.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In Progress: Broccoli and Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce [FAIL]

Though this is a variant on a pasta sauce (original recipe here), I'm probably going to have it over rice tomorrow. And yes, the "in progress" tag - while it's literally accurate as of 9:55 pm - also denotes a recipe that "needs work."
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic (about 1 heaping tbsp.), coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 small onions (about 3/4 cup), coarsely chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can tomatoes (San Marzano, this time), crushed - reserve liquid
  • salt to taste
  • 12 oz. mixed broccoli and cauliflower pieces, chopped (mine came in a plastic bag)
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add garlic and red pepper flakes; saute for about a minute, then add anchovy fillets. Cook, stirring, till anchovies begin to turn into mush.

Add onion and cook till it begins to soften and become translucent, 3-5 minutes.

Add tomatoes -- I crush them by hand because it's a gloopy, messy, satisfying feeling. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes, till they're starting to look saucy. Add salt to taste then correct seasoning, if necessary.

Ok, now that my cunning plan's starting not to seem terribly cunning, it's time to go to the liveblog for troubleshooting!

9: 45 pm: Add vegetables. There seemed to be way too much of them, so I added the tomato liquid from the can (about a cupful), brought everything to a boil, then simmered.

9:48 pm: Of course now there seems to be a tad too much liquid, so I'm keeping the lid off.

9:50 pm. Bubble, bubble, toil and hazard, broccoli limp and cauli rock-hard. I suspect failure - or at least non-optimal food - is imminent. On the upside: sauce tastes pretty good, with quite a kick from the red pepper flakes.

9:54 pm. Well, the cauliflower's at acceptable al dente texture, but still hasn't melded into the rest of the flavors. I suspect the broccoli's even limper. Ah well, another couple of minutes won't hurt.

9:55 pm. Discussing the specifics of this particular fail over Gchat. This is what I get for turning my back on The Bittman, who advocated parboiling and blanching, then adding the cauliflower to the sauce.

9:57 pm. Can't bear to see the broccoli start turning brown around the edges and soggy, so I turned off the heat. Quite a bit of liquid too - forgot that stuff tends to exude from veggies when they're heated. I probably could have gotten away with minimal amounts of tomato liquid, if any. At least this will sit in the fridge till tomorrow, so the flavors will have a chance to meld.

10:16 pm. After a couple of mouthfuls, this doesn't seem to be a total failure. The cauliflower texture is fine, the broccoli is a tad soggy but still respectably solid in the mouth. Sauce is way too thin, but well-seasoned. Perhaps history will look more kindly upon this dish once it's for lunch tomorrow.

NOTE (Mar. 11): Actually, this isn't really a fail, but I like the tag too much and will keep it around for actual fails. Reheated the last bit of this with some sliced sausage and had it over rice. Good bowl food!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Fried Rice Chronicles, Vol. 1: Allium Uber Alles

Fried rice is an easy and often delicious way to use up leftovers or near-spoiling sundries. This time, we had a sad little carrot and various softening members of the allium family (the only reason there weren't any leeks was because I never leave any uncooked - witness the previous entry. This was the first time I'd tried making it in my Le Creuset dutch oven (thanks, Tita Tessie!) instead of in the nonstick one (R.I.P., my friend) I was used to (yes, I bought a wok years ago; no, I haven't gotten around to unpacking and seasoning it yet). It turned out well - both taste testers were very complimentary, though John wondered if I should add the egg even later in the cooking process. Anyway....
  • 4 cups day-old rice, crumbled
  • 3 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic (about 1 heaping tbsp.), chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tbsp. soy sauce or more, to taste
  • 5 scallions, chopped
Beat the eggs and set them aside.

Put the oil in the Dutch oven on high heat. When hot, add the onion and carrots. Cook for a few minutes, turning the heat down if necessary, till vegetables are soft but not browned.

Add shallot. Cook, stirring, for a minute or so more.

Add garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so (as Bittman advised, I wanted to keep the garlic flavor strong).

Add rice, stirring to coat it thoroughly with oil and distribute the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes, till rice is heated through.

Dig a well in the middle of the rice, and pour the egg into it. Belay the stirring and cook for a minute or so, until some of the eggs begin to solidify at the bottom, but the rest is still liquidy (maybe a minute?). Then, rapidly stir the egg into the rice mixture. (Bittman likes to scramble them fairly thoroughly before incorporating them into the rest of the dish, but I like the creamy, faux-risotto-y texture this method produces).

Add soy sauce; mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste; correct seasonings.

Remove from heat; stir in scallions - or leave them on top as a garnish, if you prefer. I like some of them ever so slightly cooked.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Braised Leeks with Tomatoes

I finally caved and bought the completely revised edition of the indispensable How to Cook Everything. One of the best features of the new version is a vastly expanded set of variations on basic recipes - including a nice alternative to one of my favorites, "Leeks Braised in Butter or Oil."

I adore leeks - they're one of my favorite vegetables, and I've cooked slight variations on Bittman's base recipe many a time. These particular ones were a rather sad three bunches - none of them over 1 in. in diameter, and with perhaps three inches of usable white and light green at maximum. That said, even teensy, aging leeks taste lovely, and the recipe variant let me make use of a leftover half-can of Muir Glen tomatoes. Herewith, my riff on Bittman's version (which leaves out the parsley garnish and the thyme):
  • 3 bunches of leeks, trimmed and cleaned and cut into 3-inch sections
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of chopped canned tomatoes, with some of the juice (Bittman prefers a single fresh one)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice (about 1/4 lemon)
Heat butter in a pan or skillet over medium heat. When it melts, add the leeks. Liberally (the amount, not the political persuasion) sprinkle them with salt and pepper and cook, turning once or twice, for about 5 minutes (they should be lightly browned).

Add the tomatoes and their juice; bring the mixture to a boil. Then, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook till the leeks are tender (about 12 minutes in the case of these slim little things, usually 20-25 minutes). Uncover - if you think the mixture's too liquidy, simmer for a few minutes more (I love broth so I don't bother).

Sprinkle lemon juice over the leeks; correct seasoning and serve.

NOTE: This turned out wonderfully, with the partially-caramelized sweetness of the leeks, the roasted-tasting richness of the tomatoes and the tang of the lemon juice all coming together nicely. Will definitely try this again.