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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

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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

KotW: A memory of beef February 15, 2009

Posted by panterazero in food philosophies, Kip of the Week, red meat.
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Probably in 1976, in a restaurant in San Francisco’s Japantown called Sanppo, I had one of the most intriguing Japanese appetizers I’ve ever had. On the menu, it was called “Grilled Beef.”

It was simply two large cubes of beef, which had been grilled, but on one side only. The side of the cube touching the plate was almost, but not quite, charred. The visible top was almost, but not quite, raw.

Give that a thought. It means that a bite of that beef, a vertical slice, comprised infinitesimal layers of every possible degree of doneness — therefore every possible intrinsic flavor — that the meat could have. By a cooking method so simple as to seem slipshod, a genuinely complex and elegant dish had been created.

Now — okay. To begin with, those two cubes were beef of a quality that would be very difficult to buy on the open market. Also, the cooking had been done with fanatical care; I’ve tried to duplicate it since, and have only come close. But whether I’m brave enough to use this technique to create an appetizer, I sure have learned something about browning beef before I stew it. And we’ll get to that tomorrow, when I post a recipe.

KotW: Pork with Pears, Lentils, and Plum Sauce February 5, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, exotic!, fruit, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, pig pig pig.
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[In North America we have an odd attitude toward fruit; we want to cook it only when it’s perfectly ripe. That insistence makes for great apple and peach pies and strawberry jam, but in other contexts it’s awfully limiting. For example, what would the great Cuban beef dishes –- picadillo or ropa vieja or boliche -– be without a side of fried plantains? Unripe fruit is an estimable staple in savory cooking.

So find a few really rock-hard pears and try this. I give two slightly different versions, one using fresh plums if it’s the right time of year, the other substituting dried fruit and factory sauce. ]

1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils
two cups boiling water

two medium yellow onions, chopped
two tablespoons oil
one pound boneless lean pork, sliced

two to four unripe hard green pears, peeled and cored (depending on size, enough to make four cups chopped)

If you can get them:
four tart purple plums, seeded and cut up
Otherwise:
eight dried apricots
one-half cup Chinese or Japanese plum sauce, from a jar

four to six cloves of garlic
a piece of fresh ginger the size of a walnut, peeled and sliced
one-quarter cup dry sherry
one-quarter cup cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
one tablespoon sriracha, or more to taste

Put the lentils in a large measuring cup, pour the boiling water over them, and let them sit. If you’re using the dried apricots, put them in a smaller cup, pour boiling water over them to cover, and let them sit too. Chop the pears.

Sauté the chopped onions in the oil, allowing them to brown generously. Add the sliced pork and stir until the meat loses its pink color. Add the chopped pears, the lentils, and the soaking liquid, stir, and leave at a simmer.

Drain the dried apricots, if you’re using them. In a food processor, mince the garlic and ginger till it settles on the walls of the tank. Add the cut-up plums OR the dried apricots, and purée. Add the sherry, the vinegar, the plum sauce if you’re using it, and the sriracha, and blend.

Pour the plum sauce over the meat-lentil-fruit mixture, turn up the heat and bring it to a boil. Ideally, the pears will still have a tiny bit of crunch, and the lentils will be nutty-tasting and firm. Correct the seasoning.

© /KC September 2008