Monthly Archives: October 2009

Chicken with Basil Butter and Succotash


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Beans beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you…well you know how the rest of the saying goes.  Either way my fiance is stuck with me and what better way to use beans than in succotash! Succotash became popular during the Great Depression since beans were one of the few items that were cheap and readily available.  I managed to grab the last few ears of corn before having to wait til Summer to eat it again.  It’s a great dish for those cool fall nights, with the earthiness of the beans and corn enriched with the beautiful basil butter, it will leave your tummy happy and satisfied.

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Ingredients for Succotash:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried mixed shell beans, such as lima, flageolets, fava, cranberry, kidney, or butter beans (allow to soak overnight)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 large ear of corn)
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (can be store bought)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 chicken breasts or thigh, cut and trimmed

Ingredients for Basil Butter:

  • 1 large shallot, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into chiffonade

What the heck is chiffonade? It’s a technique of cutting ingredients like herbs into ribbons.  You stack the leaves ontop of each other and roll them into a cigar-like shape, the cut the roll crosswides and the pieces will unravel in ribbons.

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For the succotash, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water.  Add the beans to the boiling water and blanch for 3 to 4 minutes, drain and transfer to the bowl of ice water.  This will “shock” the beans and stop them from cooking as well as set the colors.  Drain again and set aside.  Heat a large and deep saucepan over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Once it has melted add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the corn and beans and stir to heat through.  Pour in the stock and increase the heat to high.  Cook until the liquid is soaked up by the beans, but leave just enough to coat the vegetables, about 15 minutes.  If the beans are still too hard, simply add more stock and cook it down until they have softened.  However, becareful to not overcook the vegetables or they may discolor.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover to keep warm and set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 400F.  Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the shallots.  Place the chicken breast or thigh on top and pour the stock and wine into the pan.  Sear the chicken on both sides and stick the pan into the oven and allow to cook the rest of the way, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove chicken from oven and pour the juices into a medium saucepan.  Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and set aside.  Add the lemon juice to the pan of juices and bring to a boil until reduced by half, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the cream and continue to boil for 1 minute.  Reduce the heat down to medium and slowly whisk in the cubes of butter, incorporating each cube before adding more.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chiffonade basil right before serving.

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Plate the succotash with a slotted spoon and divide evenly among 4 plates.  Place the chicken on top and generously spoon over the sauce.  Serve immediately.

Ginger Roasted Pears with Candied Almonds


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Well be ready for a weeks worth of pear recipes folks!  My local grocery store was selling Bosc pears — 4 pounds for $1.  How could I resist?  I immediately bought $5 worth.  It seemed like a great idea at the time but now I have 20 pounds of pears in my home.   Even my fiance thought I was a little out of my mind, but luckily they are one of my favorite fruits so they will be gone in no time. 🙂

My favorite way of preparing pears would be roasting them.  My mother use to make me roasted pears for when I was sick — however she would hollow out the cores and fill it with mystical (disgusting) Chinese herbs, and even then I still found the pears to be delicious.  The flesh of the pears break down and become very delicate, it simply melts in your mouth.

A few tips on choosing pears:

  • Pick pears that are uniform in size without any bruising or discoloration
  • Make sure they are heavy and firm – the heavier they are the more juice content they have
  • When choosing Bosc pears, pick ones that are greenish-yellow to brownish-yellow
  • If the pears do not smell fragrant simply put them in a brown paper bag for a couple days to quicken the ripening process

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Ingredients for Roasted Pears:

  • 6 just-ripe Bosc pears
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup sweet Muscat
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 slices of fresh ginger, about 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Ingredients for Candied Almonds:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

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To roast the pears, preheat the oven to 400 F.  Peel the pears and slice the bottoms to remove the fibrous core.  Stand the pears on the cutting board and cut them in half, scooping out the seeds and core with a small melon baller or teaspoon.  Lay the halves in a roasting pan, with the cavity side facing up.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and and pour the white wine and Muscat over them.  Evenly coat the pears with the sugar and drizzle with honey and lay a piece of ginger over each pear and dot with butter, roast for 30 minutes.  Remove the pears from the oven and flip them over to the other side, cavity side facing down.  Roast for another 20 minutes and repeat the process with cavity side up.  Pour the roasting liquids over the top and raise the oven temperature to 425F.  Sprinkle the pears with 1 tablespoon of sugar and bake for two more 20-minute periods, basting them each time.  The pears should be tender when a knife or toothpick is inserted, with a shiny coating and slight carmelization on the sides.  Allow the pears to cool in the roasting pan and reduce the oven down to 350F.

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While the pears are cooling, prepare the candied almonds. Boil water in a small sauce pan and blanch the almond slices for about a minute.  Drain and mix with brown sugar, honey, and butter.  Using a slotted spoon, trasnfer the almonds to a well greased sheet pan to prevent the almonds from sticking. Bake for 5 minutes or until a toasted golden brown color, the sugar should be carmelized.  Set aside and cool.

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You can serve the roasted pears by itself topped with the candied almonds and a little powdered sugar, or serve with a creamy vanilla or caramel ice cream.  Bon Appetit!!

Green Papaya Spring Rolls


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The first time I tried green papaya was at a Thai restaurant, it was served with sticky rice and a marinated beef dish called “Tiger Cry”.  The dish itself did not blow me away, but I loved the green papaya salad.  It had a tangy sweetness with a nice crunchy texture so when I spotted a green papaya at the asian market last week I was intrigued to reproduce the recipe at home.

I originally was going to make vegetable spring rolls and a papaya salad, but then my creative button went off in my head and decided to make “green papaya spring rolls” :).  Results? Pretty yummers if I do say so myself and did I mention these are very nutritious and low-fat?   I also made two dipping sauces to go along with it: a spicy peanut sauce and a traditional Vietnamese fish sauce.

When choosing your green papaya, make sure you pick one that is firm with no soft spots or bruises.  The flesh should be a white to light orange in color.  Also, to make shredding easier for the papaya as well as the carrots for the spring rolls, I would invest in either a mandolin slicer or a Titan peeler. Yes I am referring to the infomercial product you see at 3 in the morning.  My best friend gave me one for my birthday and I have to say, I use it every single day because it juliennes better than what I can do freehand.  

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Ingredients for Green Papaya Salad:

  • 1 small green papaya
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped (salted/unsalted)
  • 1-2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 to 2 tomatoes, cut into long thin strips
  • 1 red chili, minced (add more if you prefer a spicier flavor)
  • 3 green onions cut into ribbons
  • 1/2 cup fresh Vietnamese basil, torn
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon honey or agave

For the papaya salad, mix all the liquid ingredients together in a bowl, make sure the honey/agave is fully dissolved.  Set aside.  Peel the outer skin of the papaya, halve it lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Julienne the papaya, if you do not own a mandolin or the famous titan, you can use a potato peeler to create thin ribbons which you can then cut into strips.  Place the papaya in a large bowl and add the sliced tomato, spring onion, chili peppers, and basil.  Toss with the dressing until thoroughly incorporated and then add the chopped peanuts.  Taste the salad and add any sweet,salt,or spice you think is missing.  Place in refrigerator and allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes.

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Ingredients for Spring Rolls:

  • 12 square rice paper sheets
  • 3 ounces of rice vermicelli
  • 1/2 head of green,red or romaine lettuce ( about 12 leaves)
  • 1 large carrot julienne or shredded
  • 1/4 cup of Vietnamese basil, mint or coriander ( I used all 3)
  • 2-3 cups of Green Papaya Salad

Soak the vermicelli in hot water for 10 minutes until softened.  Take a large pan big enough to fit the rice wrapper and fill with warm water.  You do not want your water to be extremely hot or the paper will become too soft and tear.  Soak the wrapper for about 30 seconds and lay out on a clean, flat surface.

Place your ingredients towards the bottom half of the wrapper — do not add too much or the roll will be too big! Begin with a small handful of lettuce then add the same amount of vermicelli on top.  Place the carrots then the green papaya salad and top with herb mixture. Fold the bottom up, then the two side corners and continue rolling up, making sure the wrapper is kept firmly around the ingredients. With practice, you will be able to predict more precisely about how much ingredients you should put in each roll without making it too big or small.

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Ingredients for Spicy Peanut Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon Hoisin Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peanuts

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until incorporated.  If the sauce is too thick, add more water, if it is too thin, add more peanut butter.  Garnish with chopped peanuts.

Ingredients for Vietnamese Fish Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 6 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed, peeled, and minced
  • 1 medium shallot, crushed peeled, and minced
  • 1 Thai chili pepper, seeded, and minced

Whisk together the fish sauce, water, lime juice and sugar in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.  Add the remaining ingredients and allow to marinade for 30 minutes before serving.

Seared Chicken Thigh with Carmelized Leeks & Orange


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I adapted this recipe from Chanterelle as well — I can’t seem to get my nose out of this cookbook.  The pictures are not only breathtaking but the flavor combinations are absolutely stellar, so I couldn’t help but try all the recipes before returning it to the library.  This recipe originally called for Sweetbreads, which are the thymus glands on a calf — not exactly for the faint hearted.  Personally I am not a fan and it is quite hard to find in your local store so I substituted chicken thighs for this recipe.  You can also use chicken breast if you prefer, but I stick with thigh meat because it is a moister and more flavorful meat.

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Ingredients for Seared Chicken Thigh with Carmelized Leeks & Orange:

  • 2 pounds of chicken thighs/breast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 2 large onions, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
  • 2 large carrots, unpeeled cut into large chunks
  • 2 garlic heads, in their skins, cut in half horizontally
  • 1/2  cup cubed fresh ginger unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 cups veal stock or chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 large pieces dried orange peel
  • black pepper from a mill
  • 3 cups leeks (white parts only) cut into 3 1/2- x 1/4 inch ribbons and wash well
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter softened at room temperature

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For the sauce, heat 1/4 cup of oil on high heat in a large pot.  Add the ginger, garlic, carrots and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir often to prevent the vegetables from burning.

Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar and water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Continously stir the mixture until it comes to a boil, then stop stirring but continue to heat until the sugar carmelizes into a medium golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Carefully add 1 cup of orange juice and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the caramel.  Please be careful during this step, add the liquid slowly or else the caramel will bubble over.  Continue to simmer at a medium-high heat and stir until the hardened caramel has dissolved.

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Add the caramel mixture to the vegetables and add the stock and soy sauce along with the orange peel, and bring to a slow, steady simmer.  Cook until the sauce is fragrant and slightly reduced, about 50 minutes.  Strain the sauce through a sieve and discard the vegetables.  Place the sauce in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook until the mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes.

This is a method called a “gastrique“, common in a lot of French cuisine.  It is a thick sauce made from a reduction of sugar, vinegar and some type of fruit.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat.  Add the chicken thighs and brown on each side, about 8-10 minutes.  Do not rinse the pan.  Transfer to a plate, cover and set aside.  Sautee the leeks with 1 tablespoon of sugar over medium heat in the same sautee pan you used for the chicken.  Once it is browned and caramelized, turn the heat high and add the remaining 1/4 cup of orange juice, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, stirring and scraping any brown bits that may be stuck to the pan.  Reduce until the pan is nearly dry and add the sauce, chicken and butter.  Coat the chicken well with the mixture and plate immediately.  Finish off with spooning the sauce around the plate and garnishing with leeks and scallions.  Serve with a side of bok choy steamed or sauteed.

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This recipe is a little bit more difficult than others, however the results are worthwhile.  I initially attracted to this recipe because of the Asian influences.  It tastes like a General Tso’s Chicken sauce, but with a French twist.  The sauce is rich and complex with the leeks and orange creating a harmonious balance of flavor.

Kheer with Pistachio Almond and Cardamom


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Kheer is a rice pudding that is a very common dessert in India.  It is made from a simple yet flavorful preparation of rice and milk.  This pudding is made with either toasted rice or vermicelli and can be served warm or cold.  The essential ingredients are rice, milk and sugar but different preferences will vary the thickness or thinness of the pudding.

For those of you who are not familiar with Cardamom, it is a common spice used in Indian cuisine, native to the forests of the western ghats in southern India.  You can find ground cardamom powder or maybe even whole cardamom pods at your local grocery store in the spice aisle.  The pods are stronger in flavor, but will be more troublesome because you would have to take out the seeds and ground them.  (But well worth the effort if they are readily available)

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Ingredients for Kheer:

  • 3 – 4 cups of whole milk, diluted with 1 – 2 cups of water depending on what kind of consistency preferred (less water will make it thicker and more water will make it runny)
  • 1 cup basamati rice
  • 1 cup condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1 tablespoon of pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon of almonds
  • 1 teaspoon finely powdered cardamom seeds

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In a medium saucepan, boil the rice in the milk on medium heat until thoroughly cooked. (About 15 minutes)  Continuously whisk the milk to prevent the bottom from burning.  Slowly incorporate the condensed milk and then add the sugar, raisins, and nuts.  Continue to stir until the mixture thickens.  If you prefer the Kheer to be more of a drink than a pudding, simply add more milk and water until the preferred consistency is achieved.  Add the cardamom and garnish with nuts and cinnamon.  Can be served hot or cold.

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This is actually a great recipe if you have some left over white rice in the fridge.  It will save you the cooking time for the rice.  I sometimes add 1/2 cup of coconut milk in place of the condensed milk to the Kheer which seems to compliment the Caradmom really well.  You can also make this a low-fat recipe by using skim milk instead of whole milk and using honey or agave syrup in place of sugar.