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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