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KotW: Chicken Paprikash and an Imperial Variant. July 29, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, chicken, entertaining, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, pasta, saucy, tomato.
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With this recipe we once again plunge into the stringently prescribed arcana of Hungarian cooking.  Even what I say here will doubtless be counterargued, but whether or not you agree with my stipulations on paprikash — in particular, the inclusion or exclusion of tomato which has been debated for centuries — I hope you find the result delicious.  We must start with the axiom of my skilled friend Amory Lovins: “Meat and onions, weight for weight.”  So since, according to my faithful postal scale, a medium-to-large yellow onion weighs between eight and 10 ounces…

3 pounds chicken thighs, boned and skinned (may be frozen)
3 pounds yellow onions — about five or six large
one-quarter cup good olive oil

Skin and chop the onions.  Warm the oil in a six-quart pot, add the onions, and cook, stirring, until they achieve a uniform golden brown with no scorching.  This takes a while of steady attention.

Meanwhile, broil the chicken thighs, six minutes a side if thawed or ten minutes a side if frozen.  I prefer this to pan-browning since it leaves the chicken more tender at the start of braising.  Let the chicken cool slightly and, according to preference, leave the pieces whole or cut them up bite-size.

To the onions, add

one quarter cup real Hungarian paprika
one-half teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
one-eighth teaspoon caraway seed, or more to taste, crushed
one-half to one teaspoon red flake pepper, optional (sort of depends on your paprika)

Stir the mixture till the seasonings are well distributed, and add
one quart chicken stock, carcass or box
the chicken pieces
the pan juices from broiling, if any, through a strainer

Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and let mixture cook 25 minutes if chicken thighs are left whole, or 15 minutes if you’ve cut them up.  Meanwhile, start water boiling for pasta, then grate together

A small potato, between one (fist-size) and three (big-marble-size)
one ripe fresh tomato, halved and cored
four cloves garlic, peeled

Stir this mixture into the chicken and allow to simmer — not boil — for 15 more minutes.  The grated potato should disappear as far as possible, since its purpose is to thicken the gravy, rather than to make an appearance as an ingredient.  Seven to ten minutes before serving, start cooking

A 12-ounce package wide egg noodles

and when the noodles are ready, the paprikash also will be.  Serve immediately, very hot, to your guests, who will be impatient if they know what’s imminent.

The royal treatment

From the matchless work of Peter van Rensselaer Livingston — whose cookbook How to Cook a Rogue Elephant please do purchase if you find a copy for sale — we find that one good excuse for the Austro-Hungarian Empire was its culinary sophistication.  This is hardly a surprise, since imperial appetite (in whichever sense) provoked a collision and mingling of the best in Austrian, Hungarian, and northern Italian cooking.  Here, with credit exceeded only by my gratitude, I adapt a technique from his book to two of my own recipes.  You will need

three to four tablespoons basil pesto (see previous recipe)
chicken paprikash and noodles as above

When the noodles are cooked and very hot, toss them with the pesto; the objective here is a thin uniform coat on the pasta, rather than pesto as a primary sauce.  Then serve the chicken over the noodles as usual.  The interplay of raw and cooked garlic, basil, pine nuts, caraway and paprika is startlingly unusual and satisfying.

© /KC July 2009

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KotW: Not-Quite-Classic Basil Pesto. July 28, 2009

Posted by panterazero in cheesy goodness, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, pasta, vegetarian.
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[Part one of a two-part invention; the other part is above.]  This may be one of the simplest things I make, but hot pasta with pesto is a dish that our regular dinner guests ask for most often, and who am I to argue?

One bunch fresh basil sprigs (12-18 stems)
eight cloves garlic, peeled
one half cup sharp white cheddar cheese, chopped
one half cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
one half cup asiago cheese, shredded
one half teaspoon red flake pepper
one half cup broken walnut meats
one half cup pine nuts
one half cup good olive oil

Rinse the basil and pluck the leaves off the stems.  Put the basil leaves with the garlic in your food processor and grind both to a fine paste.  Continue grinding, adding the three cheeses to the food processor one at a time.  Stop grinding, add the pepper and nuts, and grind again until the nuts are finely chopped in the mixture, but not until they disappear.  Finally, add the oil and spin until blended.  The mixture should have the texture of soft clay and a dull finish, without containing so much oil that it’s semiliquid or its surface looks slick.

This can, of course, be simply and lavishly tossed with hot pasta and served.  But if you go one step further — okay, a few steps further — you will have re-created one of the greatest culinary pairings of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Stay tuned.

© /KC July 2009

KotW: Summer Eggplant and Mushrooms July 24, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, cheesy goodness, pasta, tomato, vegetarian.
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This casserole is one of the most substantial vegetarian dishes I’ve made, and although the three subassemblies are a little bit of work, everything goes together quick, clean — and pretty — at the end.

one cup dried small white beans
two cups boiling water

Put the beans in a large measuring cup and pour the boiling water over them.  Cover the cup with a saucer and let stand one to two hours.

six large, flavorful (heirloom) fresh tomatoes
two large globe (Italian) or four to six long (Asian) eggplants
one-quarter cup good olive oil
one teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 475°, or 450° convection.

Core tomatoes, top and tail eggplants.  Cut both into chunks — larger than bite-size, since they will shrink.  Toss the vegetables like a salad with the oil and seasonings.  Put the vegetables in a heap in a 9×13 glass baking dish, and bake them in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  Meanwhile:  Put the soaked beans, with their liquid, in a saucepan, add more water until the beans are covered by about 2 inches.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a high simmer.

one large yellow onion, diced fine
one pound fresh white mushrooms, sliced thick
two tablespoons oil

Sauté these ingredients altogether until the onions are translucent, and the mushrooms are tender and shedding liquid.

When the beans are fully cooked but still firm, after 30 to 50 minutes of simmering, add

one cup orzo

Bring back to a boil and boil for nine or 10 minutes, until orzo is al dente. Drain beans and orzo and put in large serving bowl; add eggplant and tomatoes, then mushrooms and onions, and mix thoroughly.  Top with

grated Parmesan, asiago, or smoked cheddar

to taste.  This is meant primarily as a hot dish, but the leftovers are quite good dressed with a vinaigrette as pasta salad.

© /KC July 2009

Kip of the Week: Pantera’s Faisanjan. July 5, 2009

Posted by panterazero in chicken, entertaining, exotic!, fruit, Kip of the Week.
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Persian food is distinctively delicious because a lot of its flavors are strong and unusual at the same time.  Few other cuisines are as enthusiastic about combining fruit and/or nuts with meat, and I don’t know of another one that’s as devoted to sour sauces.

For years I shrugged off this dish because I couldn’t abide the idea of juicing half a dozen pomegranates.  Then suddenly, bottled pomegranate juice became an antioxidant darling of my supermarket’s cold case, and — hey!

Try this on a night when you feel tired of everything you’ve ever cooked.  Trust me, it’s different.  Allow two chicken thighs per serving, and make lots of rice.

four to eight chicken thighs
two tablespoons butter
one large, or two medium, onions
two cloves garlic
one cup walnuts
one cup pomegranate juice
two cups boiling water
one-quarter cup dried cranberries
eight fresh or dried apricots
one small cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste

Put the cranberries in a cup and, if you’re using dried apricots, dice them and add them too. Pour the boiling water over the fruit and cover the cup with a saucer.  Let this sit while you do the rest. If you’re using fresh apricots, chop them and set them aside.

Mince (don’t slush) the onion.

Process the walnuts, garlic, and pepper together, to a paste.

In a pan large enough for the whole dish, brown the chicken thighs quickly and thoroughly.  Set the meat aside and pour off and discard the fat, keeping as much of the nice brown stuff in the bottom of the pan as possible.  Add the butter to the pan, let it melt, add the chopped onion and sauté it till it’s golden.

Add the walnut-and-garlic paste and stir thoroughly.

Add the pomegranate juice, the fruit with its liquid, and the cinnamon stick, and bring the sauce just to a boil.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Cook at a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is very tender.  Add the chopped fresh apricots if you’re using them, and salt as needed.

Serve with rice.  If you want to be really Persian, serve a green salad with crumbled feta cheese, mint leaves, and lightly toasted walnut pieces.

©  /KC July 2009

KotW: Beet-and-carrot curry. June 23, 2009

Posted by panterazero in exotic!, Kip of the Week, vegetarian.
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This is an adaptation of the curried beet recipe to be found at http://curryinkadai.blogspot.com/2007/11/cant-beet-this.html, to which I’m deeply indebted.  I had a few more vegetables to add and, sadly, not quite as wide a spectrum of Indian ingredients; before I make this again, I mean to go to Berkeley and scout up some curry leaves.  Regardless, this was delectable, and I regard it as an excellent candidate for additional development.

one bunch fresh beets (2 to 4, with greens)
four to eight small or medium carrots; if tender and thin-skinned, don’t peel
one cup frozen green peas, slightly thawed
1 cup medium or hot salsa verde or, if you’re lucky, New Mexico green chile sauce
two tablespoons skinless red lentils (masoor dal)
two tablespoons finely chopped ginger
one teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
one teaspoon black mustard seeds
one teaspoon whole cumin
one-quarter teaspoon ground turmeric
two tablespoons corn or canola oil

Cut greens off beets, stem the greens and soak them thoroughly in cold water.  Put beets in a saucepan with cold water to cover, bring water to a boil, and cook beets for five minutes.  Remove beets from water, allow to cool, and rub skins off beets under running water.  Drain and chop beet greens; combine greens with frozen peas.
Cut beets and carrots into chunks.  In food processor, julienne beets and carrots.

Heat oil in wok or sauté pan.  Add lentils, cumin seeds, black and yellow mustard seeds, sauté until mustard seeds start to jump; then add beets, carrots,  and ginger, and stir-fry until vegetables are almost tender.  Add the greens, peas,  and turmeric, and continue to stir-fry until greens are barely limp and peas are fully flawed.

© /KC June 2009

KotW: Portobello mushrooms and an application. June 18, 2009

Posted by panterazero in Kip of the Week, pasta, saucy, vegetarian.
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Again we are in the realm of the upscale vegetable.  As I write, decent portobello mushrooms are about the same price per pound as top-grade hamburger, and in my view offer a better reason for paying it.  But once you have them, you have to be careful; you want to bring out robust earthy flavor without bitterness, and alluringly meaty texture without toughness.  It took some experiments to hit the note, but here’s how.

4 medium-to-large portobellos
3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
one large clove garlic skinned and crushed
one teaspoon salt

Rinse the mushrooms well and trim their stems. Skin them by tearing off triangles of skin from the edge to the center.  Put the skin, the gill cover [if any], water, oil, and salt in the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes.

Put the mushrooms, caps down, in a wide casserole, strain the liquid over them, and add the garlic.  Cover and braise in a 275°F oven for an hour and 15 minutes.  The mushrooms will be both tender and tasty, but save every drop of the broth, which is some of the most potent mushroom stock imaginable.

now make

MUSHROOM, TOMATO AND PEPPER STEW WITH PASTA

mushrooms from above recipe, cut in chunks
mushroom broth from above
3-4 fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned, cored and chopped
2-4 red bell peppers or sweet red chiles, roasted, water pack
1/2 lb. penne, fusilli, farfalle or any chunky pasta
four to six cloves garlic skinned and chopped
two tablespoons good olive oil
one tablespoon fresh sage, minced, or one teaspoon dried sage, crumbled

Cook the garlic in the oil till golden.  Add the sage and stir till you smell it.  Quench the pan with the mushroom broth.

Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers and keep the mixture over very low heat — you want it quite warm but not cooking.

Cook the pasta in oiled salted water till it’s about two minutes short of your preferred doneness. Drain it, add it to the vegetables, and bring it to serving temperature.  I swear this is one of the most flavorful dishes I ever made, or ate.

© /KC June 2009

KotW: Southwestern Stew. June 8, 2009

Posted by panterazero in Kip of the Week, New Mexico, soups and stews, tomato.
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had two pattypan squashes from the vegetable box, which I wanted to cook while they were really fresh. I was thinking about New Mexico and the NetHeadChef, for a customary constellation of reasons. And I had a nice batch of stock from the most recent roast chicken…

one cup dried small white beans
one-half cup red (skinless) lentils
two cups boiling water

Put the dried beans and lentils in a large cup, pour the boiling water over them, cover the cup with a saucer and leave it for at least two hours.

3 quarts carcass stock or box stock
one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with diced green chiles
OR
one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
one 7-ounce can diced green chiles
one large or two medium yellow onions, chopped

one teaspoon ground cumin
one teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
one-half teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
one-half teaspoon red flake pepper, or more to taste

two medium pattypan squashes, trimmed and chunked
three medium or six small carrots, trimmed and chunked
three large or six medium cloves garlic

12 ounces or one pound interesting earth-toned sausage, like chicken mushroom, chicken artichoke, chicken apple
one 15-ounce can whole kernel corn with diced bell peppers
one-quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine the soaked beans, chicken stock, tomatoes and chiles, and chopped onions, and cook at a high simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beans are almost tender and the lentils have almost dissolved. Add the cumin, thyme, oregano, and red flake pepper.

With the grating blade of your food processor, grate the squash, carrots and garlic together and add this to the pot, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Slice the sausage, add it, add the corn, and bring the soup to a boil, stirring for five more minutes. Add the nutmeg, and the salt and pepper as desired. This is tremendously satisfying without being heavy and, unlike most complicated soups, doesn’t need cold weather as a backdrop.

© /KC June 2009

KotW: Wow for wowshi. March 23, 2009

Posted by panterazero in Kip of the Week, restaurants, reviews.
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West Los Angeles, less imposing than downtown to the East and less posh and pricey than Santa Monica to the west, is a Shangri-La for cheap eats. Today, let’s talk about wowshi.

Wowshi, if you’ve never met them (I never had), are a Middle Eastern take on calzone — a spicy meat filling wrapped in pita dough, then baked to a delectable brown. Contrasted to the Italian contender, there’s no messy red sauce, the fillings are more varied, and the bread jacket is far more tender and flavorful. This is a big win.

Last night I had my first wowshi at Bella Pita on Westwood Boulevard. This is a little vest pocket of a place that seats about 10, cozily, and does a robust trade over its counter. The menu is not only wowshi, but more formal sandwiches on the same delectable home-baked pita, as well as falafel, and side dishes like french fries, fried cauliflower, black beans, and Kalamata olives. Naturally, I didn’t and couldn’t sample everything in a single visit, I only wanted to. And, of interest in these trying times, there’s not a thing on the menu over seven dollars — which is why this place does a roaring lunch business with rave reviews.

If you happen to be in West LA, you’ll find a ton of really good ethnic fast food, most of it cheap. Give serious thought to Bella Pita, which is a place I’d go back to any time — and we know I’m picky.

Bella Pita
1945 1/2 Westwood Blvd.
West Los Angeles
Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. — 9 p.m.

KotW: Citrus Chicken. February 25, 2009

Posted by panterazero in chicken, entertaining, fruit, Kip of the Week, quick & dirty, saucy.
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This is just about guaranteed to be new to your guests, and it’s soooo easy.

chicken pieces
flour [optional]
salt
pepper
thyme
1 or 2 oranges
1 or 2 lemons
1/2 to 1 bottle white wine (I prefer a dry one like a pinot grigio, but you could experiment with something like a riesling, just stay away from chardonnay which doesn’t cook well)

If you like extra browning, shake the chicken pieces in a bag with flour, salt and pepper, but that’s really optional. In a large skillet brown them nicely on both sides, being careful to dry out but not burn the juices in the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile seed the fruit, if necessary, and slice it thinly, discarding the ends.

Remove the browned chicken from the pan and line the pan with a layer of orange and lemon slices, then replace the chicken and season it with salt, pepper and thyme. Cover the chicken evenly with the rest of the orange and lemon slices.

Add half the bottle of wine, raise the heat, and bring the wine just to a boil. lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and let everything cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Check it two or three times and, if a lot of the wine has evaporated, add more; there should be plenty of pan juice when the dish is done.

Serve with rice, couscous, orzo, kasha, or anything sort of grainy that’ll soak up the juice. I’ve made this dish two or three times a year for thirty years and it usually gets raves.

© February 2009 /KC

Kip of the Week: Pörkölt. February 17, 2009

Posted by panterazero in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, red meat.
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Ah, Hungarian cooking. Especially Hungarian national dishes!… oh, wait, everything out of a Hungarian kitchen is a national dish. But I’m speaking here specifically of the world-renowned meat dishes of the Hungarian prairie — gulyás (goulash) and gulyásleves (goulash soup, which is not goulash, but is still good,) pörkölt (which has never been translated into English because everybody in an English-speaking country thinks all Hungarian stew is goulash), and finally paprikas (“paprikash”) which is what you make when you don’t want your stew to have water in it. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

There are articles, there are books, and for all I know there are fistfights, about the precise distinctions among these dishes. However, they all depend on one of Central Europe’s most robust culinary armatures — red meat, onions, paprika, potatoes or pasta, and some sort of stock. Confronting this, one can only say “How could I go wrong?” And, really, you can’t; but a little extra attention to technique makes for an entirely superior result.

Some day I’ll develop a goulash recipe, but I just don’t have time today to write that book. So let’s concentrate on (very) good (very) old pörkölt, which is really the wellspring of almost all Hungarian stews.

three pounds of stew beef, or a three-pound boneless chuck roast, or a three-pound boneless cross-rib roast
three pounds yellow onions (say, four to five medium)
one tablespoon oil
two Anaheim peppers
two cloves of garlic
three tablespoons sweet or hot paprika
OR
two tablespoons paprika and one tablespoon Santa Fe or Chimayo chile powder
OR
either of the above plus red flake pepper to taste
two teaspoons Bell’s poultry seasoning
one teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
one-half teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
one teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon ground black pepper
water or stock, as given

If you’re working with the chuck roast or cross-rib roast, cut it into nice bite-size pieces. Also skin and chop the onions, so as to have them ready.

Warm up a large sauté pan or metal casserole, and put the oil in it. Cover the entire bottom of the pan with a single even layer of beef pieces, so that there are no gaps. (You may have to do this in two batches.) Turn the heat to medium or medium-high.

As the beef cooks, juices will bubble up in the gaps between the pieces. So long as this is happening, the pan needs only occasional attention. Once the bubbling stops, though, watch the pan like a hawk, because you want all the juices to dry out and brown nicely, but not scorch! Just when the pan juices are the right shade of brown, the beef pieces will unstick from the pan, so take them out with a spatula and set them aside. IMMEDIATELY add the onions, along with a little more oil if the pan is very dry, and stir until the onions start to shed water and dissolve and pick up the dried pan juices. Here you can lower the heat a bit and cut back to stirring occasionally, so top, seed and chop the Anaheim peppers and crush the garlic.

When the onions are a uniform, appetizing brown, add the chopped peppers, crushed garlic, paprika, Bell’s seasoning, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper, and stir until everything is nicely mixed.

Put the onions, spices and herbs in the bottom of the casserole, then put the meat on top, and add stock or boiling water JUST to cover everything. Keep on a high simmer on the stove, or in a 275° oven, for… oh, an hour to 90 minutes, tasting occasionally to make sure that the beef is tender but not flaky. Serve with noodles or boiled potatoes, and I highly recommend boiled carrots or steamed cabbage as a vegetable side.

© /KC February 2009