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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: 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

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

Curried Brussels Sprouts January 22, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegan.
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Brussels sprouts can be one of the most assertively delicious vegetables that are easily available — even in winter.  Unfortunately, they also tend to be one of the most mistreated.  Your average brussels sprout ends up camouflage-green, soggy, leaky, smelling like overcooked cabbage and tasting worse.  What a sad fate for a truly aristocratic vegetable!  Forget steaming, or water in general, entirely, and do this instead.

two pounds very fresh brussels sprouts
four or five medium-to-large fresh tomatoes
two tablespoons corn or canola oil
two large, or three medium, shallots
two tablespoons curry powder
one-quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper, or one teaspoon chili powder
one 15-ounce can light coconut milk

Stand unopened can of coconut milk in saucepan full of warm water, possibly over very low heat.  (This is so all the coconut milk will come out of the can when you want to pour it in.)

Trim the stem end of the brussels sprouts and slice them in a food processor.  (They’ll come out a nice mix of slices and shreds, which is fine.)  Reserve.

Skin and chop tomatoes, but don’t drain.  Reserve, separately.

Mince shallots.  Mix thoroughly with curry powder and cayenne pepper or chili powder.

Heat oil in a wok or sauté pan.  Stir-fry shallot and spice mixture over medium heat just until everything starts to smell really good.  Add tomatoes with their liquid, turn up the heat, and stir-fry until almost all the liquid is gone.

Add brussels sprouts and stir-fry until green parts of sprouts are really bright green.

Pour in warm coconut milk and stir thoroughly until mixture is boiling.  Serve with rice or noodles.

© /KC January 2009

Chickpeas and Eggplant December 17, 2008

Posted by panterazero in African food, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegetarian.
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I’ve been doing “chickpeas, onions and tomatoes” for years — there’s an Indian name for the combination that I forget — but I finally came up with the truly delectable variant, so here it is.  It’s easy, but you do need to watch the eggplant carefully.  A warm oven, such as you would have if you were for example baking dessert, is also helpful.

one medium eggplant, chopped small
1/4 cup olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green part only, washed and chopped (do save the rest for stocktrash)
one 15-oz can chickpeas with 1/4 cup of the packing liquid
2 cups (half a jar) good grade tomato basil pasta sauce, OR
2 cups good marinara sauce and 1/4 tsp dried basil, crumbled
1/3 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese

crusty Italian bread, like a ciabatta

Put the eggplant and oil in a saute pan with 1/4 cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to medium, cover, and cook about 15 minutes.  You want all the water to steam away and the eggplant to get truly soft while it browns on the bottom.  When it’s done, stir-scrape the browning back into the mixture.

Add the leeks and stir till they too are tender, slowly adding the packing liquid from the chickpeas if you need it to forestall burning.  Stir in the chickpeas, red sauce, dried basil if you’re using it, and the packing liquid if you didn’t already.  When the mixture is bubbling nicely, top it evenly with the cheese, and slide the pan into that warm oven till you need it.

Serve over big torn chunks of warm bread.  This is so delicious that, the night I first made it as a vegetable side dish, it turned into the main course.

© /KC December 2008

Guest of the Week: Walnut Balls December 3, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in appetizers, cheesy goodness, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegetarian.
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These are from my longtime friend Anne, who paints landscapes, designs databases, plays the flute, and lives in the coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. Her home is smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful parts of California, and here’s what she does with it.

This appetizer, like most of what Anne does, is excellent in a way that you’ll really notice. I make them once a year at the outside, because I want everybody to wait for them — they’re that good.

Mix together:

one cup walnuts, ground
one cup Parmesan cheese, grated
one cup breadcrumbs

Sauté until soft:

one large carrot, grated
one medium potato, grated
one medium yellow onion, grated

Combine the two mixtures and add:

Three eggs

The result should have about the same consistency as meatloaf. Roll this mixture into balls about an inch and a half in diameter. Sauté in butter or oil until firm and well browned.

At this point you can do one of two things. Bake these in a glass dish at 300° for 15 minutes, then serve them on toothpicks as appetizers — in which application they’re sort of like falafel, but a lot better. Or you can keep going:

Three or four Yukon gold potatoes, sliced fairly thin
Walnut balls as above
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or whole ones cut up)

In a buttered baking dish, arrange overlapping potato slices. Add walnut balls in one layer. Pour tomatoes over. Cook covered in a 350° oven for one hour.

© Anne Kessler December 2008

Kip of the Week: Salmon in Bruschetta Crust August 20, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in entertaining, Kip of the Week, tomato.
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Of the dishes i make — that is, that I made up — this is my personal favorite. The crust, besides being loaded with flavor of its own, seals natural flavor and moisture into the underlying fillet. And with salmon costing what it does today, who would dare dry it out?

You need a food processor and a 9×13 pyrex baking pan.

two-pound skinless fillet of king salmon [warehouse store fillet is excellent]
three or four slices firm coarse-grained bread, or 12-15″ of a baguette, toasted hard [sourdough if you can get it, stale is fine]
three cloves garlic
one tablespoon fresh or one teaspoon dried rosemary
four big pieces roasted red bell pepper from a jar; rinse to remove the black bits of skin
½ cup wet-pack sun-dried tomatoes with some of the oil [if dry-pack are all you can get, add oil]
olive oil as needed for procedure

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In the food processor, grind the bread, garlic and rosemary to crumbs. Add the bell pepper and tomatoes and keep grinding till the result is like fine gravel; then drizzle olive oil into the top chute till the mixture gathers into a ball. This is usually not more than one tablespoon of oil.

Oil the underside of the fish and lay it on the baking pan. Spread the mixture over the top side of the fish and press it down to a firm even layer, leaving no gaps. Do leave a small space between the edge of the crust and the pan, or it will burn where it touches the glass.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the crust is an earthy black-speckled red like firebrick.

Good sides for this: Spinach pasta, or polenta with mushrooms, or corn on the cob, and a biiiig green salad. If you’re having wine with dinner, this is one of the few fish dishes I know that really will stand up to a chardonnay.

© /KC August 2008

KotW: Taste of Nepal [review] August 14, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in cookbooks, entertaining, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, salads, tomato, vegetarian.
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TASTE OF NEPAL
Jyoti Pathak
New York: Hippocrene Press, 2007
ISBN 0-7818-1121-X
470 pp. hardcover
$27.50 list

The cuisines of the roof of the world — eastern Afghanistan, eastern Pakistan, the Punjab, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan — are as distinct from each other as the great cuisines of Europe, and they’re all terrific. But dishes from these countries aren’t easy to find in most restaurants, and recipes on the net are sparse. This is a pity, because good Afghani, Tibetan or Nepali food will truly expand your culinary horizons.

I was introduced to Nepali food when Adri, fresh from a trip to Kathmandu, sat down with me in my kitchen and we tried to figure out how to make dal bhaat that tasted real. At that time, I had never been able to find a Nepali cookbook in English, still less a comprehensive one. Today, happily, that lack is remedied with Jyoti Pathak’s Taste of Nepal, which is a pleasure to read, a joy to cook from, and as authentic as could be.

The book begins with a section on snacks and appetizers, which are a national tradition in Nepal — partly because Nepalis eat two meals a day and fill the interim with enthusiastic snacking, and partly because local hospitality demands that any visitor, even a surprise visitor, be welcomed with food ready on the spot. Nepali snacks (khaajaa) somewhat resemble Indian chaat, except that they’re tastier, more adventurous, and often more complicated; many of them involve cheura, or pressed rice flakes, a Nepali nibbling staple.

Nepali cooking offers a wide variety of carbs, and meticulous attention is paid to rice, to dal (beans, lentils, and peas), and to bread (roti); there are over a dozen bread recipes in this book, some quite exotic. Vegetable recipes, meanwhile, draw from far-flung sources, so that some here seem almost Chinese, some Indian, and some Pacific.

In Nepal, as the author says, “meat is a high status food and does not feature frequently in the regular diet of most people,” so the majority of meat recipes here are for banquet dishes, with long lists of ingredients and complex preparations. Many call for goat, the staple meat of Nepal. There are also recipes for lamb, pork, and venison, but not for beef, since most Nepalis are of the Hindu faith and avoid beef for religious reasons.

Many of the poultry dishes here, including tandoori chicken, seem very Indian, but the recipes for Cornish hen, turkey, quail, and pheasant are far off that beaten path. Again, many of these dishes are meant for holidays and festivals, but for the right occasions, elaborate preparation would be worth it.

Fish is popular in Nepal because it signifies good luck, prosperity, and happiness. Ocean fish is not available; fish is line-caught from Himalayan rivers and either prepared as fresh as possible, or smoked or dried for storage. Preparations here are simple and are mostly fish fries or curries.

Momo (dumplings) may have originated in Tibet but are wildly popular in all Himalayan countries, and a real delicacy. Filled with chicken, lamb, pork, or mixed vegetables, these are bigger, juicier, and more substantial than either Chinese wonton or Korean-Japanese gyoza. Usually they are steamed, but they can also be sautéed like potstickers.

The section on salads, chutneys, and pickles is worth the price of the book, and rather than go into tedious detail, I’ll give one recipe here:

NO-COOK TOMATO CHUTNEY (Na Pakaayeko Golbheda ko Chutney)

This recipe is my daughter Sapana’s favorite way of preparing a quick chutney. The amount of chili may be adjusted to suit your taste.

6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
8 to 10 fresh hot green chilies, roughly chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Szechuan pepper (timmur), finely ground with a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon mustard oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice

Place the tomatoes, green chilies, cilantro, garlic, ginger, salt and timmur in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and mix it with the mustard oil and lemon juice. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The chutney keeps refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

The book is rounded out with a nice section on desserts — most of which, unsurprisingly, are milk-based — one on drinks, mostly teas, and one on “after-meal refreshers,” which are highly spiced or intensely fruit-flavored savory snacks. In short, Nepali cuisine and its materials and methods are covered here from end to end, and you could rely on this book when you prepared a banquet, working from the banquet menus in the book’s last section, “Planning and Serving Nepali Meals.”

If you find some ingredients unfamiliar — and I certainly did — you’ll find comfort in the extensive glossaries of ingredients and of Nepali-English culinary terms. Finally, this book proudly includes an index detailed enough to be usable, which is a great asset especially to a cookbook.

I can’t say enough good things about Taste of Nepal, although I’ve tried. You could try a recipe from this book every day for a year, and you wouldn’t run out. Recipes were obviously developed in collaboration and extensively tested; nothing here is faddish, flippant, or obvious. Finally, as a matter of meticulous production, each recipe is complete on one page or on two facing pages so you can put the book in your cookbook holder and get going. It’s a small thing, but the whole book shows that kind of care.

If you’re at all interested in expanding your culinary repertory, you deserve to have Taste of Nepal on your kitchen bookshelf.

(c) /KC August 2008