Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lillian's Fail-proof Chicken Kebabs

 I cannot believe that I have not posted this recipe, even though I have probably made it a hundred times. Now you too can know the secret of how to make killer chicken kebabs, every time. This recipe will impress friends, endear you to in-laws, please picky eaters, and perhaps even make you more attractive.

The key is using dark meat, i.e. chicken thighs. This is also good with lamb. Multiply the recipe to make more (I usually make about 12 thighs).

Unfortunately I do not have any good pictures, but this captures how tightly you should pack the chicken onto the skewer for maximal juiciness.

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
~1/3. c. full-fat plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. salt
additional seasonings* (optional)

Cut the chicken thighs into large-ish chunks that will stay on your skewers. Combine the remaining ingredients in whatever container you want to marinate the chicken in, then and add the chicken thighs. There should be just enough yogurt to coat the meat generously--it shouldn't be swimming. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight.

Place the meat onto the skewers and really pack it on tightly. This is key to keeping the meat from drying out. I recommend the sword-type skewers. Heat your grill to high initial heat, then place the skewers on the grill and lower the heat to medium. Turn 3-4 times, allowing to cook through without burning (allow 25-30 minutes, but it may go faster).

Slide the meat off the skewers and serve with various mezze; there are a ton of ideas listed under Middle Eastern on this blog.

 *Note: you can add more seasoning, such as cayenne, cumin, a pinch of allspice, or a generic "kebab seasoning" mix. However, I think it turns out best if you keep it simple.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mulligatawny Stew

It's not every day that I post a130 yr old recipe! I found this one from 1885 for Mulligatawny Soup while perusing a site that houses vintage cookbooks and recipes. I am calling it a stew because I overdid it on the rice, and it's kind of nice that way. Scale back the rice if you want it to be soupy and/or are planning to have leftovers, as it will thicken considerably as it sits. Boiling a whole chicken will make more chicken stock than you need for the recipe, which is great if you want to make extra to freeze.

Served with parathas (frozen section at Indian grocery).

1 whole chicken, cut into breast and legs
1 package beef or veal stew bones
6-8 c. water
2 Tbsp. oil
aromatics*

2 red onions, diced
3 Tbsp. curry powder**
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. butter 3/4 c. basmati rice
1/2 c. frozen peas (optional)
1/2 lemon

* if you are making a large batch of chicken stock, use aromatics such as yellow onion (including the peel), celery, bay leaves, etc...
**you can keep the seasoning simple and just use curry powder, or doctor it up by adding some freshly crushed coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, and minced ginger, as I did

Brown the beef stew bones in hot oil in a large stock pot, then add the chicken and aromatics. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 1.5 hrs, skimming any gunk off the top. Strain the stock off and set the chicken aside.

In another pot, heat the butter and fry the onions until they begin to get tender. Add the curry spices and toss over heat to release the fragrance. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the onions. Add as much chicken stock as you would like to turn into soup and simmer for 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend the onions about 80% smooth to thicken the sauce. Add the rice and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.

Shred the chicken and add it to the soup. You may add some frozen peas for color. Add in the juice of one lemon and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with lemon slices and green onions, if desired.

If you are curious, here is the original text of the recipe:
Divide a large chicken into neat pieces; take a knuckle of veal, and chop it up; put all into a large saucepan, and add one gallon of water; salt; boil for three hours or until reduced one-third. Put an ounce of butter in a hot frying pan, cut up two red onions, and fry them in the butter. Into a half pint of the stock put two heaping tablespoonfuls of curry powder; add this to the onion, then add the whole to the soup, now taste for seasoning. Some like a little wine, but these are the exception and not the rule. Before serving add half a slice of lemon to each portion. Many prefer a quantity of rice to be added to the soup before it is finished; the rice should be first well washed and parboiled.

Szechuan Peppercorn Chicken with Eggplant

Ages ago I bought some szechuan peppercorns for a recipe, and haven't tried many recipes with them since. They're very strange - they have what can only be described as a floral, citrisy taste, a bit like lychees (but less floral). In this dish, based loosely on authentic szechuan chicken recipes, they lend a really nice counterpoint to the chilies, but you don't want to add too much and overwhelm things. Note that this is a fairly dry stir fry.

I made this with Japanese eggplants, but if you only have normal eggplant, cutting it into cubes might actually be nice, since they'd be a similar shape to the chicken chunks.

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (breasts reheat better for leftovers), cubed
5 Japanese eggplants, in slices
3+2 cloves garlic, sliced
1.5 teaspoons peeled sliced fresh ginger
1 heaping tablespoon szechuan peppercorn
3-8 Chinese-style dried red chilis, seeds removed
3 tablespoons dry sherry or rice wine
2 tablespoons oil + more for cooking
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt to taste

Preparation

At least 1 hour before cooking: Over very low heat,  warm the szechuan peppercorns until they start to get fragrant, but without burning them. Crush 2/3 of the peppercorn in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, and pour over chicken chunk. Add dry sherry, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 chili peper, mix, and let marinate in fridge at least one hour.

After chicken has marinated, start warming a pan until good and hot - I used a wok, but actually think a frying pan would have been a better choice, since we're not trying to make something saucy. While warming the pan, you can heat the chili peppers for more flavor if you like, but be careful not burn them.

Add oil to the hot pan, and briefly let 3 cloves of garlic and ginger sizzle before adding the chicken and chilis. You may need to cook the chicken in shifts if you want it to brown nicely. Cook until chicken is browned on the outside, it may not be fully cooked inside. Remove chicken from pan.

Add more oil, sizzle the remaining 2 cloves garlic, add eggplant. Let cook a minute or so before adding remaining (whole) szechuan peppercorns, let cook another minute or so before adding returning the chicken to the pan and adding soy sauce. Cook until chicken is cooked through and eggplant is tender.

Since this dish doesn't have much soy sauce, you may need to add salt. Serve on fluffy white rice.

If you need an addition veggie, I put some rice vinegar, a few szechuan peppercorns, and a grind of black pepper over sliced persian cucumbers.