Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carrot Paté

This spread tastes even better a day or two after you make it. I like to serve it on garlic toasts, which I make using thin slices of baguette. Just mix pressed garlic with some softened butter, spread the result on the bread, and bake in a moderate oven for 20-30 minutes.

3 large carrots
1 small onion
1 Tbs olive oil
¼ c orange juice
¼ c cold water
½ tsp (or more) curry powder
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs mayonnaise
1 tsp coarse-grained mustard

1. Peel the carrots and slice them thinly. Chop the onion.

2. Using a skillet with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, sauté the onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes.

3. Add the carrots, orange juice, water, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Reduce the flame to low. Cover and simmer until the carrots become tender, about 20 minutes. (If the liquid evaporates too quickly and the carrots start to burn, add more water and orange juice.)

4. When the carrots have softened, uncover the skillet, raise the flame, and boil off the remaining liquid.

5. Transfer the carrots to the bowl of a food processor. Add the mayonnaise and mustard. Puree.

Cilantro-Mint Chicken Curry

The reason I recommend making the chutney in two batches is that most food processors can’t hold all the ingredients at once.

(serves two adults and two children with leftovers)

The Cilantro-Mint Chutney
2 bunches fresh cilantro, stems included
1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed
2 jalapeno peppers, trimmed and seeded
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1 c cold water

The Curry
2 Tbs cumin seeds
1 Tbs coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic
½ c canola oil
1 c yogurt
1 Tbs kosher salt
2½ lb boneless chicken thighs

1. Using a food processor, puree the chutney ingredients in two batches, using half of each ingredient per batch. Combine the batches and set aside.

2. Measure the cumin and coriander seeds. Peel, trim, and press the garlic.

3. Using a large heavy skillet with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium heat until it’s hot enough to make a cumin seed sizzle. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and cook for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about another 30 seconds. Add the yogurt and salt. Stir well. Then add the chicken thighs in a single layer. Cover and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Once the thighs becomes tender, shred them use two forks to pull them apart. Then stir in the cilantro-mint chutney. Simmer, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice.

• Wear an apron when adding the yogurt because the oil tends to splatter.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Indonesian Lime and Coconut Chicken

I love this dish because it tastes great and also because it never fails to impress guests. It seems so complicated; and yet, as you can see, it’s a snap. The trick is that the marinade doubles as a sauce.

(serves two parents and two children)

The Marinade
1 14-oz can coconut milk
3 Tbs peanut oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp curry powder
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 fresh jalapeno, minced
grated zest of a lime
cayenne pepper, to taste

The Chicken
4 boneless chicken breasts

The Garnish
cilantro coarsely chopped
lime wedges

1. Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl or dish large enough to hold the chicken as well.

2. Pound each breast to flatten it into a paillard about ½-inch or ¾-inch thick. (If the breasts are especially plump, consider butterflying them—that is, slicing them across their thickness and opening them up like a book.)

3. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least an hour but not overnight.

4. Prepare your grill. When very hot, remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and grill the chicken until cooked inside with nice grill marks on the outside.

5. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, boil/simmer the marinade for about five minutes. (This kills whatever harmful bacteria may have migrated from the chicken.) Serve over the grilled chicken with a garnish of chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

• You can also make this dish on a stovetop using a large cast-iron skillet. Heat the pan over a high flame, add some peanut oil, let it come to temperature, and sauté the breasts quickly, about 2 minutes per side, until cooked all the way through.

• I use a Pyrex loaf pan to marinate the chicken because its small footprint and high sides ensure that the marinade covers all of the meat.

• If you don't have a specialized meat mallet, a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet will do. I recommend placing the chicken between sheets of wax paper to keep down the mess.

• When making this on a weeknight, I make the marinade the night before and add the chicken the next morning before I go to work. This way, the breasts are ready to grill when I get home.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New England Clam Chowder

The worst thing about commercial chowders is how glutinous they are. The second worst thing is the predominance of potatoes over clams. Fortunately, you can rectify both problems by making the chowder yourself. Any type of hard-shell clam will do, but I use the large ones, sold as “quahogs,” because they’re by far the cheapest. What’s most important is that the clams are fresh.

(serves eight)

8 lb fresh hard-shell clams (about 20 quahogs)
¼ lb pancetta (or bacon)
2 large onions
2 lb potatoes
2 Tbs unsalted butter
¼ c flour
1 tsp dried thyme
freshly ground black pepper
3 c milk
1 c heavy cream
fresh parsley

1. Scrub the clams well to remove all the sand and grit from their shells. Place in a large stockpot. Add two cups cold water. Cover and cook over medium heat until the clams open, about 20-25 minutes. Remove the clams as they open. Allow clams and broth to cool.

2. Remove the clams from their shells and chop coarsely. Strain the broth through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove any sand or grit. (You should have 4-5 cups of broth. If not add cold water to make 4 cups.) Clean the stockpot.

3. Dice the pancetta and sauté in the stockpot over medium-low heat until the fat renders, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the onions and dice the potatoes.

4. Add the butter and onions to the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, about 10-12 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, another 3 minutes.

5. Add the reserved clam broth, potatoes, thyme, and black pepper to taste. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a simmer. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the reserved clams and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, another 7 minutes. (Do not overcook the clams or they will become tough.)

6. Reduce the heat to low. Add the milk and cream. Stirring often, heat the milk and cream but do not bring the soup to a boil. When the soup is suitably hot, add freshly chopped parsley and serve.

• This soup is easily made in advance, and it tastes even better reheated the next day. You can also make it in stages. The clams can be steamed and refrigerated separately from the broth. Just let the broth warm to room temperature before adding it to the stockpot.

• I recommend pancetta over bacon for this soups, because I think the strong flavor of bacon tends to obscure the more delicate flavor of the clams.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kung Pao Chicken

You’ll probably have to visit an Asian food store before making this dish. However, if you’ve never been to one, you’re in for a treat. The Chinese grocery that I frequent, in addition to being unbelievably inexpensive, has fabulous vegetables and the freshest fish around.

(serves two parents and two children)

The Chicken
2 boneless chicken breasts (about 1¼ lb)
1 egg white
1 Tbs cornstarch
large pinch of kosher salt

The Sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 tsp (or more) chili paste with garlic
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tsp rice vinegar
4 Tbs chicken broth
1 tsp sesame oil

The Rest
3 cloves garlic
3 scallions
2 Tbs peanut oil
5 (or more) dried red chile peppers
1 c roasted unsalted peanuts

1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the egg white, cornstarch, and salt. Mix well. Set aside.

2. In another bowl, combine the ingredients for the sauce and mix well. Set aside.

3. Trim and coarsely chop the garlic. Trim and cut the scallions into ½-inch lengths.

4. Heat a wok (or a large heavy skillet) over a high flame. Add the peanut oil and heat until it begins to smoke. Add the chile peppers and stir-fry until blacken, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, about another 30 seconds.

5. Add the chicken and stir-fry until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the peanuts and stir-fry for another minute. Add the sauce and heat thoroughly. Serve over rice.

• In Chinese cooking, the technique of coating meat with cornstarch (usually as a prelude to stir-frying) is called velveting. I find that the easiest way to do this is to mix the ingredients with my fingers.

• Because I like my Kung Pao to have a lot of “pao,” I often hold back some of the chicken and stir-fry it separately with a little broccoli for the kids.