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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: 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: 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

Pork, pasta, and veg. September 23, 2008

Posted by sarawr in all-in-one, pasta, pig pig pig, saucy.
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Hello there! I know I promised you a gingerbread post last time I popped in, but I’m hung up on a quest for molasses — I am determined to make genuine gingerbread, which requires molasses. Not honey. Not caramelized brown sugar. Not Splenda. Molasses. So. That will happen later.

In the meantime, I came up with something very yummy that I thought I’d share. I was browsing through the frozen foods aisle at Wal-Mart (hush now, I’m all right) when I came across these… uh… well, I don’t know what they’re called. They’re bags of food all frozen together so that when you heat them up, they make a meal. Beef and potatoes, chicken and broccoli with sauce, that kind of thing. One of the bags caught my eye — it was elbow pasta with chicken and alfredo sauce, and it might have had a vegetable of some sort, too. I don’t remember the particulars now, but it looked good. I wanted it. Except, I didn’t want to pay eight bucks for two servings’ worth, especially since those two servings were all flash-frozen and preservative-laden. What to do?

Well, I got creative, is what. I picked up some cavatappi pasta (elbow noodles, but somehow fancier) and pancetta (soft bacon, but smokier and also fancier) and thought about what I already had at home. I didn’t have chicken, but I did have some pork loin. I didn’t have peas… or peppers… or whatever was in the frozen stuff, but I did have spinach and some native corn (maize, to you non-New Mexicans). I hate alfredo sauce, but I thought garlic cream sauce might be nice. Bingo!
I diddled about with the proportions and various cooking times, and here’s what I ended up with. I wasn’t going to post it here until I’d given it a few trial runs, but guys: This stuff is delicious.

YOU WILL NEED:

Half a pound to a pound of cavatappi (or farfalle, or whatever — just stay away from stringy noodles)
1/4 to 1/2 pound pork loin, cut into strips or cubes
A splash of olive oil
One to two cups fresh spinach, chopped
An ear or so of native corn (or regular corn)
One cup pancetta, crumbled or diced very finely
This garlic cream sauce

WHAT TO DO:

Whip up the garlic cream sauce beforehand; with this recipe, it’s best if you add extra pepper — maybe three dashes instead of one. Then get your pasta boiling with a little salt. Pop your spinach and corn into a colander or steamer (a double boiler would be handy here, but I didn’t have one) over the pasta so that it can wilt/steam properly. While the pasta and veggies are doing their respective things, stir-fry the pork loin in olive oil for about ten minutes on medium heat. Add the pancetta to the pan about eight minutes in and let everything sizzle together for the last couple of minutes. Drain the pasta, shuck the corn, and throw everything into a pan over very low heat. Slowly stir in the garlic cream sauce.

Ta-da! Dinner. It’s even sort of well-balanced. Who’s the top chef now, huh?