Cured Copper River Salmon with Fennel Carrot Salad and Cucumber Dill Yogurt Sauce

cured salmon with cucumber dill yogurt sauce and fennel carrot salad

cured salmon with cucumber dill yogurt sauce and fennel carrot salad

Salmon is an omnipresent fish in almost all grocery stores nowadays. Unfortunately, most of it is farmed and and in my opinion it fails to deliver in terms of flavor. Apparently, farmed salmon is also fattier than wild probably because it doesn’t get as much exercise ;-) Here is a comparison chart. Regardless, even farmed, salmon is a pretty healthy protein choice and if you do not mind the difference in flavor, you can usually save some money by buying farmed versus wild. Personally, after a few disappointing farmed salmon purchases, I’ve decided to stick to wild salmon. Unfortunately, wild salmon is seasonal so for most of the year you can only find it in the frozen section. In my quest for frozen wild salmon, a few months ago I stumbled over frozen Copper River salmon fillets at Costco. While I have yet to sample all the different types and sources of wild salmon, for now Copper River salmon is the clear winner in my opinion! Copper River salmon was very hard to come by in the Chicago stores even frozen, so I can’t even describe how excited I was to find FRESH Copper River sockeye salmon at Costco a few weeks ago. Not even the fact that that it came as whole fish instead of fillets dampen my enthusiasm! My guess is that Costco decided to sell it whole because the fish were a little damaged from transport. As a consequence, portions of my fillets were far from smooth looking…oh, well! Coincidentally, I also found the newest issue of Bon Appetit in my mail pile the same weekend which had a spread on salmon, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I decided to use their recipe for cured salmon for the damaged pieces of fillet and the tail ends (part of the tail was cut off so it can fit better in the package, poor decision on Costco’s part). This was my first time curing salmon, and I have to admit I was a little nervous about the result, but given that this salmon literally melts in your mouth when cooked, I was fairly convinced of its superior quality. Since the recipe made it on the blog, I probably don’t have to tell you it was successful and the husband and I have survived eating my at home cured salmon :-)

Recipe notes: you need two baking dishes that fit into one another to press down the salmon so choose your dishes carefully. I used a mandoline to slice the salad ingredients, but you can also use a very sharp knife.

Ingredients (serves at least 6):

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
  • 2 Tb gin (I used Hendrick’s)
  • ~1/2 lb skin on salmon fillets
  • fennel and carrot salad: 2 carrots thinly sliced, 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced, 1/2 lemon thinly sliced, 1 – 2 Tb chopped fennel fronds, 2 Tb olive oil, 1 Tb lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
  • yogurt sauce: 1/2 cup greek yogurt, 1 persian cucumber cubed, 1-2 Tb chopped deal
  • bread for serving

For the salmon, mix salt, sugar, fennel fronds, and gin in a medium bowl. Spread half the mixture on the bottom of the larger baking dish.

curing mix

curing mix

Lay salmon on top and add the remaining curing mixture.

curing salmon - before

curing salmon – before

Cover salmon with plastic wrap. Place the second baking dish on top and add some cans to weigh it down.

pressing down the salmon

pressing down the salmon

Refrigerate for 1-2 days, turning occasionally, or until the salmon is pretty firm and darker in color.

cured salmon - after

cured salmon – after

Remove salmon, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. 

cured salmon - after

cured salmon – after

Chill until ready to use.

For the salad, mix the thinly sliced fennel, carrots, lemon slices, and fennel fronds with olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper and toss until combined. Let sit at room temperature for about half an hour or until the veggies get softer.

For the yogurt sauce, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, set aside.

When ready to serve, slice the salmon against the grain. Slice bread. Top bread  with yogurt sauce, followed by the salmon pieces, and end with some salad. Enjoy ;-)

Cured Salmon with Yogurt Sauce and Fennel and Carrot Salad

Cured Salmon with Yogurt Sauce and Fennel and Carrot Salad

We also had the salmon on bagels with cream cheese instead of yogurt sauce…delicious as well ;-) This turned out to be such a great way of using the not so perfect salmon pieces!

 

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Skillet Chicken Fajitas with Rajas con Crema (Poblanos with Cream) and Pickled Radishes

skillet chicken fajitas

skillet chicken fajitas

Now that the price of limes has recovered (2 lbs for 99 cents at the store last weekend…woohoo!!!), I can finally post this recipe without feeling bad about ruining dinner budgets with the amount of limes required for it. This is another recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that I picked out a while back while I was trying to actually follow recipes. You may remember the other success stories from CI: shredded beef tacos, massaman curry, and barberry scones.  This is a great recipe, and a favorite in our household at the moment. The combination of the moist chicken, creamed poblanos and tangy radishes is definitely a winner. The recipe obviously has quite a few steps, and while each individual part doesn’t take too long, assembling the entire meal can be quite exhausting, especially if you’re making the tortillas! I was very close to actually buying tortillas this week, but instead I came up with a plan to do part of the prep a day in advance which worked out quite well. So if you are planning this as a weeknight meal, you can save some time by making the radishes and also roasting and chopping the poblanos the night before. If you’re cooking just for 2, you can choose just cook half the chicken for two nights in a row. The poblanos will reheat nicely and the radishes can just pickle happily for another night :-)

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • spicy pickled radishes: 10 radishes sliced thinly, half a jalapeño chopped, 1/2 cup lime juice, 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt
  • rajas con crema: 4-5 poblano peppers, 1 Tb oil, 1/2 onion halved and sliced, 2 garlic gloves minced, a few springs thyme chopped, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 cup heavy cream, juice from 1/2 lime, salt, and pepper
  • 3 Tb vegetable oil
  • a few garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Tb lime juice (1 lime)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast
  • tortillas of choice (corn tortillas recipe)
  • chopped cilantro and/or queso for garnish

For the radishes, mix everything together in a bowl and let pickle either at room temperature for 30 min or overnight in the refrigerator.

spicy pickled radishes before

spicy pickled radishes before

Overnight, pickling solution will turn red, radishes white-ish :-)

spicy pickled radishes - after

spicy pickled radishes – after

For the rajas con crema, start by broiling the poblanos for about 10 minutes (until they’re puffed and charred), flipping them half way. Place them in a bowl, cover it with a towel, and let them steam for about 10 minutes. Let cool.

broiled poblanos

broiled poblanos

Remove most of the skin (it might be easier in water) and slice them into strips (1/4-1/2 inch).

sliced poblanos

sliced poblanos

At this step, you can either store them in the fridge overnight, or continue with the recipe.

Preheat oven to 200F. You can make the rajas con cream first, or you can try to do it at the same time with the chicken and tortillas…up to you ;-)

Heat 1 Tb oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Cook onion until charred (a few minutes). Add garlic, thyme, oregano and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).

charred onions

charred onions

Add heavy cream and cook for a few minutes or until reduced and thickened. Add poblanos, lime juice, season with salt and pepper, and cook until poblanos are warm (a few minutes).

rajas con crema

rajas con crema

You can keep the rajas con crema warm in a bowl in the oven, or just cover the skillet if chicken is almost ready.

For the chicken, mix 3 Tb oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, chili, cayenne, salt, sugar, pepper, and lime juice in a medium bowl. Pound chicken until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Add chicken to the marinade and let it sit for 30 min – 1hr, turning it occasionaly.

chicken marinating

chicken marinating

For the chicken, heat 1 Tb oil over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from the marinade, dry with paper towels, and cook until charred (3-4 min). Flip chicken and cook for a few more minutes. Transfer chicken to the oven and let cook for about 10 minutes or until it reaches 160F.

fajitas-8

chicken!

Let chicken rest for 5 minutes, slice it, and then toss it in the juices accumulated in the skillet.

chicken fajitas!

chicken fajitas!

Serve chicken with the radishes and poblanos on tortillas. Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or queso fresco.

chicken fajitas with poblanos and radishes

chicken fajitas with poblanos and radishes

And enjoy :-) I know, lots of steps, but all worth it for the end result.

Have a great weekend!

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Xplore Los Angeles Urban Race (May 17th, 2014)

Xplore racers at finish

Xplore racers at finish

“All’s well that ends well” is definitely the motto for last weekend’s Xplore Los Angeles urban race! You may remember that I ran this race with Kyle last year in Chicago and we had a lot of fun, plus we won some money as well…always a nice bonus ;-) You can read about the Chicago race here. This year the race has expanded to more cities, including Los Angeles! The race also has a new format where the pictures/videos are uploaded through an app (Bonfyre) and you get real time clue verification. Unlike other races, you cannot get a fixed time penalty for a wrong clue, instead you have to go back and find the right location, so it helps having the real time feedback. You can also chat with the organizers and get fast answers to your questions throughout the race. Given my love hate (mostly hate) relationship with AT&T during races, I was a bit nervous about doing everything on the phone. Thankfully, it all worked out in the end despite a few glitches along the way ;-)

I have to say that the Xplore team does a great job sending emails pre-race and they provide lots of useful information. We received a briefing email mentioning the app, emergency texting, etc, followed by an email sent to just the team members about the app and how to join the two Bonfyre groups: the Xplore LA  for everyone, and Dandelion Fuzz (our team name) just for Xplore HQ and the team members. You can talk to HQ using both groups, but during the race your clue pictures are uploaded through your team’s group. The Xplore LA group was used to interact with other racers, share pictures, make a few jokes, etc. The race doesn’t have a start location, instead the week before the race HQ sends a 1 mile and a 0.5 mile clue for the area where you will be able to find an access code that you can use to access the clues online (no paper envelopes!). HQ also sent a final race briefing email with instructions and final reminders.

All the emails, the radius clues, tweets, Bonfyre messages from other racers, etc, are great at getting you excited about the race! I ended up spending some time on the Friday before trying to figure out possible locations since I am still not very familiar with LA. Dandelion Fuzz then had a race debriefing over dinner and got my teammate so excited about the race that he went home and figured out the access location :-) Some of the research came in very handy: we did make it to the Grand Park area to find a fountain and we did discover the access code location prior to the race start, but we didn’t make it to the Bradbury building nor did we have to go to the Blue Ribbon fountain to take a picture with the Hollywood sign.

On race day, at 12 sharp HQ sent the final clue for finding the access code (a map of a street corner and some buildings telling you to find the X on a business awning). Since we were at the right spot (Redwood Bar X Grill from (500) Days of Summer), we just went to xplorerace.com/redwood and accessed the clue sheet. There are 10 clues total, you get to skip one, and clue #10 is the finish line, therefore mandatory. While you can figure out the location ahead of time, you do not get instructions about what to do for clue #10 until you submit 8 correct clues.

The first clue was supposed to close early and it was said to be within 4 blocks of access so we figured it was a good clue to start with. The clue had a diagram of Bicycle (pic) – E + goat (pic). Further info pointed to a yoga place, so we figured out it was BIKE – E + RAM = Bikram yoga! We ran there and we were met by a volunteer outside the studio who walked us through two poses and took a picture of us in action! Then it was time to test the app during the race and guess what: it crashed!!! twice!!! Major freak out, but it turns out even though it crashed the picture got uploaded (twice!), it was verified, and we could breathe once again :-)

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga

Next we went looking for Peace on Earth on Hope St. The area was blocked off, so we messaged HQ and they told us the instructions have changed and instead of a video hugging the statue, we could take a picture. We didn’t get to cool down in the fountain since it was off, but my shoes didn’t mind at all :-)

Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth

The next challenge we picked was to find 5 strangers to sit with us on one of the pink benches in Grand Park. I have to say people in Los Angeles are not as easily convinced to help out as Chicagoans and we had to promise the picture won’t make it onto the internet. Still some girl got up from the bench and left looking at us like we were crazy people! Thank you to the 5 willing volunteers who helped us out, but as promised no picture on the blog.

We then ran to Hill St to take a picture with 2 newspaper boxes (as many boxes as team members).

newspaper boxes

newspaper boxes

We then decided to go to Pershing Sq park to take a video running on a wall. On the way we found a friendly dog owner close to a fire hydrant who helped us complete clue 9: picture with team members  and dog owner with legs over a fire hydrant, and dog doing whatever it pleased. Dog decided not to lift its leg since it had already peed on the crosswalk pole. This made for a hilarious picture that will remain on my phone only out of respect for the awesome dog and its owner.

In Pershing Sq we got confused about the “curved” wall we were supposed to find. We picked one, took a video and moved on…later on we were told we were on the wrong one so we decided to make this our skip. When looking at the picture on the computer the wall’s location is quite clear, on the phone, during the race, not so much!

The next location was by the US Bank Tower (Bunker Hill Steps) where we had to count the steps in the stone staircase. The web browser on my phone was acting up so I didn’t realize we got 5 steps error margin until I got home!!! We went up and down the two sides of the staircase and after not getting the same answer, we averaged it out to 103, took a picture and moved on :-)

Bunker Hill Steps

Bunker Hill Steps

We then ran to the Grand Hope Park to take a picture with the Clock Tower. We had to take a pic at either :00, :15, :30, or :45. Since it was 1:10 and we had about 5 blocks to cover we did our best to make it there as fast as possible, only to find that the clock was running 4 minutes behind…boo! We waited, took a selfie, and a zoom of the clock to verify the time just in case!

Clock Tower

Clock Tower

Close by we found a Quiznos that sold ice cream so we bought 2 cones, let them melt for a bit, ate some :-), and then smashed them onto our heads to complete ‘the birthday clue’. It so happened that one of the racers decided to celebrate his 10th birthday running the race and he got mentioned in the clue…some racers didn’t think he was real :-)

ice cream!!!

ice cream!!!

With this we had 8 correct clues, so HQ sent us the instructions for the finish line. We had to go to the location and do the X pose.

Finish checkpoint

Finish checkpoint

Of course, first my camera quit without taking a photo. We had to redo it and then wait for it to upload and get verified…nerve wrecking!!! We couldn’t see anyone in the bar yet, but my picture was processing for quite some time. Shortly after the picture got uploaded (finally!!!) another team showed up. It turns out that our final picture got uploaded less than 1 minute apart!!! Thankfully that was enough for Dandelion Fuzz to win the first Xplore Los Angeles…woohoo!!!

1st and 2nd teams!

1st and 2nd teams!

We were then asked to move away so not to ruin some filming session and we settled at the bar inside where we enjoyed some refreshing pomegranate lemonades while we waited for other teams to show up. I have to say this has been the most awesome race crowd yet…everyone was super friendly and we got to make some friends :-) We left after about an hour to shower off the ice cream from our hair, but the remaining teams ended up singing happy birthday to the birthday boy and posting it on Bonfyre…definitely a perk of the online race model!

While we didn’t end up with the most optimal route, ended up completing all clues in the end (one wrong one), and phones were acting up (thankfully different issues with each phone), we WON…so it’s all good :-) Since it’s still early in the Xplore season, make sure to check out some other race locations at http://xperienceadventures.com/. You will be surprised what you can discover in your own city! There is also money to be won and friends to be made ;-)

 

 

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Limes Optional: Shredded Beef Tacos with Cabbage Carrot Slaw

shredded beef tacos with cabbage-carrot slaw and cotija cheese

shredded beef tacos with cabbage-carrot slaw and cotija cheese

Has anyone noticed the tragedy of lime shortage that is upon us?!?! About 2 weeks ago I decided we should stop by Jon’s supermarket, our favorite store for produce, especially produce required for Mexican recipes. My husband commented something along the lines “okay, let’s go get you your $10 of produce”, but it turned out my bill instead of coming to slightly bellow $10, it came to $11!!! Which, of course you may say it’s not such a big difference and it’s still a low price for my big bag of grocery, the appalling thing was that more than $3 of the 11 were paid for 5 (!!!) limes. While I admit that I’ve been spoiled by rarely paying more than 10-20 cents a lime, $3 seemed quite steep at a store where cilantro goes for 5-7 bunches/$1. Not to mention we are in CA where Mexican produce is almost local! That’s when I remembered subtle references to a lime shortage in some recent recipes. A quick google search revealed that indeed there is a lime shortage and the culprits are bad weather, disease, and Mexican drug cartels. You can read a bit about it here. The lime shortage was also reflected in the tiny oddly shaped slices that got served at the Taco Madness festival in Los Angeles. If you love Mexican food and/or margaritas I probably don’t have to tell you what a tragedy this is! This past weekend there weren’t even any limes available at the store…sigh! I hope the drug cartels will at least sell some of the limes to the US so I can still buy them.

This recipe comes from the now very popular on this blog Cook’s Illustrated March-April 2014 issue. Other winning recipes from this issues are this massaman curry and these amazing scones. Instead of lime juice, this recipe uses cider vinegar as the acid source. I still added juice from one lime to the slaw, but the recipe doesn’t require it. I used less beef than the recipe suggests so the quantities are adjusted but not always proportional to the recipe. I made my own oddly shaped tortillas following this recipe. I made this recipe with both bone-in and boneless short ribs and both work well, although the bone-in had more fat and were slightly easier to shred. I debated using a chile spiced beer for this, but after our last experience with spicy beer (Punishment) I decided it’s best to avoid it. I felt truly punished tasting that beer, so punished that it will take me a while until I’ll sip another beer with chiles…except for the 5 Vultures, but so far I haven’t seen any in our stores.

Ingredients (serves 4 or more with additional sides):

  • 1 cup beer (I used a German lagger)
  • 1/3 cup cider
  • 1 dried ancho chile, stemmed, seeded, and broken in ~1 inch pieces
  • 2 Tb tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion sliced in 1 inch rounds
  • 2 pounds beef short ribs cut in ~ 2 inch pieces
  • cabbage carrot slaw (3/4 cup cider vinegar, juice from 1 lime (or more cider vinegar), 1/2 cup water, 1 Tb sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 head cabbage sliced, 1/2 onion sliced thinly, 2 large carrots shredded, 1 serrano, 1 tsp dry oregano, 1 cup fresh cilantro)
  • 16 tortillas
  • cotija cheese

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place onion rounds on the bottom of a Dutch oven.

onion

onion

Whisk together the first 10 ingredients, salt (~1 tsp) and pepper (~1/2 tsp). Add the beef chunks and mix. Place beef chunks over the onion. Pour over the liquid.

beef on top of onion

beef on top of onion

Cover pot and place in the oven. Cook until meat gets very tender 2.5 – 3 hrs. Pardon the dirty pot ;-)

cooked beef

cooked beef

Meanwhile work on the slaw. I used my food processor to slice the cabbage, shred the carrots, and chop the cilantro and serrano pepper. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, water, sugar, salt, and oregano. Add the cabbage, carrots, onion, pepper, and cilantro. Mix, cover, and refrigerate for ~ 1 hour or overnight.

cabbage carrot slaw

cabbage carrot slaw

Shred beef. Place beef on top of warm tortillas. Top with the slaw and cotija cheese. Skip the lime wedges as the slaw is sour enough ;-)

 

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Tea-Time in Style: British Barberry Scones with Rum Peach Jam

British-Style Scones with Rum Peach Jam

British-Style Scones with Rum Peach Jam

After Sophie at dinnersforwinners mentioned Yotam Ottolenghi’s cardamom chicken quite a few times in her posts and comments, I decided to finally give it a try several weeks ago. The most time consuming task was finding barberries! I was almost ready to give up and just use currants (not that I could see any at the stores I went to), when I remembered a new mediterranean grocery store in our neighborhood. Thanks to wikipedia’s insightful knowledge, I was able to readily spot a box of barberries under their Persian name of zereshk. I don’t know how people used to find some of the trickier ethnic ingredients before wikipedia :-) I’ve made the cardamom chicken a few times now, but I barely made a dent in my supply of barberries. That’s when I decided I should try to find something to bake with them. As it happens, the March-April ’14 Cook’s Illustrated issue has a recipe for British-Style Currant Scones. Since currants were offered as an alternative to barberries in the chicken dish, I figured barberries could just as well replace currants in the scones. The barberries are quite tart, so the scones are best served with some sweet jam and/or butter. I decided to use some rum peach jam I made this past fall after we went fruit picking. These scones were amazing with a nice cup of tea ;-) I highly recommend the Japan Genmaicha tea from TeaGschwendner!

Ingredients (makes 7 scones):

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1 Tb chunks
  • 1/4 cup barberries
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I always use whole milk when baking, but the recipe suggests low-fat milk can also be used)
  • 1 egg
  • jam for serving (8 peaches, 3/4-1 cup sugar, pinch of salt, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1 1/2 Tb lemon juice, 1 Tb rum – makes ~ 1 pint)

Place oven rack in the upper-middle position. Preheat oven to 500F. In a food processor pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until combined (a few pulses). Add butter and pulse until mix looks like fine crumbs (15-20 pulses). Place mix in a bowl and add your barberries.

barberries

barberries

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Save ~1 Tb of the mix to brush the scones later.

egg-milk mix

egg-milk mix

Fold egg-milk mix into the flour-barberry mix using a spatula. Knead until a crack-free ball can be formed (20-30 times). Press onto a floured surface into a disk shape. Roll until it is about 1 inch thick (9-10 inches in diameter). I was able to press mine into a 1 inch disk without using a rolling pin.

scone dough

scone dough

Using a 2 1/2 inch floured round cutter, or in my case a beer glass :-), cut out 4 scones. Gather the dough, press into a disk, and cut 2 more rounds. Use your hands to knead the remaining dough into a round scone…it won’t be as pretty, but it will still be tasty! Place scones on baking sheet rimmed with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

pretty little scones before baking

pretty little scones before baking

Brush scones with the reserved egg-milk wash and place into the oven. Reduce oven to 425F. Bake scones until risen and golden brown (recipe says 10-12 min, but it was more like 15-18 in my oven). Remove scones from oven, transfer to wire rack, and let cool.

pretty little scones baked

pretty little scones baked

Serve with jam/butter and a nice cup of tea/coffee.

If interested in making your own jam, keep reading on how to make rum peach jam. Directions adapted from here.

Peel, seed, and chop peaches. In order to make the peeling easier, I cut an X on top of the peaches, submerged them in boiling water for about a minute, then transferred them to an ice-water bath.

peeled peaches

peeled peaches

Chop peaches, combine them with ~ 1/2 cup sugar, cover and let macerate overnight in the fridge. 

peaches and sugar

peaches and sugar

Place macerated peaches in a large pan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook until fruit softens.

peach jam in the making

peach jam in the making

Add lemon juice, zest, and salt, and continue cooking while breaking the peaches into smaller chunks. Cook until desired consistency. Taste and adjust sugar. Add rum and stir. 

peach jam!

peach jam!

At this point you are ready to either can it, or place it in a jar for refrigeration. I chose not to can it following the advice in this NYT column.

Spoon some on a nice barberry scone ;-)

rum peach jam on barberry scone

rum peach jam on barberry scone

These British-style scones turned out nice and flaky and they went very well with my peach jam. They will keep for a few days, or you can freeze them and then reheat them in the oven.

Now you are ready for tea time ;-)

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Massaman Chicken Curry

Massaman Chicken Curry with Potatoes

Massaman Chicken Curry with Potatoes

Here is another success story from “Andreea actually follows a recipe” series :-) While I cook almost everything from scratch, certain food projects do provide more satisfaction than others, and making this curry paste was definitely satisfying and worth the extra time. In my humble opinion, this is the best massaman chicken curry I’ve ever had, and I have the amazing chefs at Cook’s Illustrated (Mar-Apr 2014 issue) to thank for! When I first opened a CI magazine, I wondered why a thin, mostly black and white food magazine can cost so much. This question was quickly answered as I read through the recipes and advice columns…you don’t pay for pretty pictures, you pay for the research and testing that goes behind each published recipe! If however you don’t have the time to prepare the paste from scratch or do not own a food processor, Bon Appetit recommends Maesri Thai massaman curry paste which can be purchased from Amazon. Seriously, is there anything you cannot purchase from Amazon these days? :-)

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

  • ~ 1 cup massaman curry paste (6 dry New Mexican chiles, 4 shallots, 7 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup fresh ginger, 1/4 cup water, 41/2 tsps lime juice, 41/2 tsps vegetable oil, 1 Tb fish sauce, 1 tsp five-spice powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp pepper)
  • 1 Tb vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can coconut milk (I used the cream from TJs, do not use light versions)
  • 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes cut into ~1 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
  • salt to taste (1/2-1 tsp, remember the paste has fish sauce!)
  • ~1 lb chicken chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tsps lime zest
  • cilantro for garnish
  • rice and sriracha sauce for serving

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roast chiles on a aluminum foil covered baking sheet for 5-10 min or until puffed and fragrant. Let cool.

roasted chiles

roasted chiles

Preheat broiler. Broil unpeeled shallots and garlic cloves until soft and slightly charred (~10 min). Let cool then peel.

broiled shallots and garlic

broiled shallots and garlic

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles, break into 1-2 inch pieces, and place into the food processor. Process until ground (1-2 min). Add the peeled shallots and garlic, as well as the remaining ingredients. Process until a smooth paste forms (a few minutes). Marvel at your amazing curry paste ;-) Refrigerate until ready to use.

massaman curry paste from scratch!!!

massaman curry paste from scratch!!!

To make the curry, heat oil in a large skillet/saucepan over medium heat. Add curry paste and cook until it starts browning (a few minutes). If you look at the contact surface between the skillet and the paste you will see the change in color.

cooked curry paste

cooked curry paste

Add the coconut milk, broth, onion, potatoes, and peanuts. Stir until homogenous and let simmer until potatoes are starting to get tender (10-15 min).

curry sauce with potatoes

curry sauce with potatoes

Add chicken and continue simmering until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender (10-15 min). Turn off the stove and add lemon zest.

massaman chicken curry with potatoes

massaman chicken curry with potatoes

Serve with rice and garnish with cilantro. Sriracha can be used to add some spiciness to it.

massaman chicken curry read to eat

massaman chicken curry read to eat

This is a creamy and vibrant mild curry! The lime juice and zest make it taste very fresh, a quality I don’t usually encounter in the restaurant served massaman curry. Give this a try and most likely you are going to scratch massaman curry from your take out orders…unless you do have an amazing Thai restaurant in your neighborhood that can make it better, in which case consider tipping extra and/or sharing the name of the restaurant ;-)

 

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Fennel Crusted Pork Chops with Potatoes and Shallots

fennel crusted pork chops with potatoes and shallots

fennel crusted pork chops with potatoes and shallots

A few weeks ago, I made a commitment to actually using the cooking the magazines I currently subscribe to (Cook’s Illustrated and Bon Appetit) and singled out a few recipes to test out. I am very proud to say that I stuck to my plan and didn’t get distracted by random produce in the grocery stores :-) I decided to start with this recipe from the February issue of Bon Appetit because not only did it turn out amazing, it was also very easy to make and you can marinate the pork in advance to save some prep time. Unfortunately, this recipe also gave me the most painful cooking injury ever so I had to wait a bit before being able to look at the pictures without cringing from the painful memory. For the love of God, do not, under any circumstances, grab the handle of the cast iron pan after removing it from the 450F degree oven! I ended up spending 6 hours with my hand in an ice water bath and fell asleep with my palm on an ice packet! Miraculously, there were not blisters the next day so I got really lucky this time.

Recipe notes: the pork chops I found at the store were the thin kind, but you can also use thicker bone-in ones (~1″). I marinated 5 for two dinners for two. I didn’t really taste a difference between the chops marinated for 1 hr and the ones marinated overnight.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • marinade for the 5 chops: 2 Tb fennel seeds, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp chili powder, salt, pepper, 3 Tb oil
  • 1 Tb oil
  • 2 pork thin chops (or 1 big bone-in chop)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
  • 1 large shallot, cut into 8ths
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 tsps red wine vinegar

Toast fennel seeds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and starting to pop a bit (a few minutes). Stir or shake skillet often not to burn them. Prepare marinade by mixing the toasted fennel seeds with the oil, garlic, paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub pork chops with the spice mix. You can marinate them in a ziploc bag, but I just placed them on a plate that I covered with plastic wrap. Let marinate for 30 min – overnight in the fridge.

pork chops marinating

pork chops marinating

Remove chops from the fridge. Preheat oven to 450 F. Heat oil in an ovenproof (cast-iron) skillet over medium heat. Cook pork chops until browned on one side (2 -4 min). Turn pork chops and add potatoes and shallots to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and stir.

chops with potatoes and shallots

chops with potatoes and shallots

Cook until pork is browned on the second side and the internal temperature reaches 135F (2-4 minutes). Remove pork from the skillet. Place skillet in the oven and cook until potatoes are tender (~15 minutes). Remove skillet from the oven, add back the pork chops (juices too), and mix in the parsley and vinegar. Serve with a nice glass of red wine ;-)

Bon Appetit delivered yet again a great “fast, easy, fresh” dish! Don’t be fooled by appearances, this is no ordinary meat and potatoes dinner, but a very flavorful dish that I will be definitely making again, even despite the traumatic injury.

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