Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tandoori Chicken- Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

When my mother passed away, I kept about a dozen of her cookbooks to add to my collection. It wasn't in an effort to gain her fabulous recipes (she wasn't really much of a cook, God rest her soul) but I love good cookbooks and figured I could add some fun things to my repertoire. Most of them are natural cookbooks, a few Jewish ones that I'll break into when I'm ready, and some ethnic ones. Some I've browsed through, some I haven't.

One of these cookbooks is Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. It's an interesting book, written from a novice perspective, and features a lot of recipes with suggestions on what to serve them with. Up until a week ago I hadn't ever opened it, but knew it was there as I started looking to prepare an Indian dish. I've tried Indian food a few times and it's definitely growing on me. The chef at my hotel gave me some spices after an event that we did and I decided to try out something on my own. I know for a fact that Shawn has never touched Indian food, so I figured I'd try something simple and low key.

I took the book off the shelf, pondering what I could make... chicken tandoori was #1 on my list, but I was also considering a saagwala or maybe just doing some samosas to introduce him to the spices. I opened the front page of the book and was shocked to find a post it note stuck under the front cover. It was a recipe for Tandoori Chicken, written in my mothers shorthand, and it almost waiting for me to find it. Anyone who's lost someone close to them can understand the moments like this..... they tend to take your breath away. I burst into tears, not from sadness really, but just from the shock of finding what I wasn't expecting. I wiped the tears away and told Shawn that we were most definitely having Tandoori Chicken this week.

I bought some chicken breasts on sale and proceeded to make the recipe. The cookbook suggests using either chicken legs, breasts, or a combination of both. I went with breasts and ended up boning them as I tried to cut them into the small pieces required. Whoops! Didn't matter, really- I almost prefer it that way! I combined yogurt with onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, garam masala, salt & pepper in my blender. The recipe said I was to get a paste, but mine was more of a liquid. The recipe calls for you to strain the mixture through a sieve; pushing out the paste onto the chicken. Well, if anyone has never pureed onions in your blender/ processer; beware!! It will kill your eyes when you take off that lid. I had the door and the fan going as I strained that stuff and I still almost had to leave the room. I marinated the chicken overnight and then took it out the next day for preperation.

The original method for Tandoori Chicken requires a claypot, but the book's theory is that if you cook it at your oven's highest temperature you can maintain the same texture and quality. I haven't had the dish to really compare, but I followed the directions and the chicken was very moist and delicious! The flavor was a bit bland, though. The onions were the prominent flavor but the garam masala was extremely subtle. Interestingly enough, my mother's cooking was pretty bland so I guess it makes sense! I served it with brown rice and broccoli and it was a boring meal. I'd make it again, but will serve it with something a with a little more pop.

I used the remaining chicken for curry chicken salad the following day and it was off the hook. Check out my next blog for a little about that!

Tandoori- style Chicken- Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking
2lb chicken pieces, skinned (you may use legs, breasts, or a combination of two)
1tsp salt
1 juicy lemon
1 3/4 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 medium onion, peeled & quartered
1 clove garlic, peeled
a 3/4 inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled & quartered
1/2 fresh hot green chili, roughly sliced (or diced green chilis)
2tsp garam masala
Wedges of lime, optional

Cut each leg into 2 pieces and each breast into four pieces. Cut 2 long slits on each side of each part of the legs. The slits should never start at an edge and they should be deep enough to reach the bone. Cut similar slits on the meaty side of each breast piece.

Spread the chicken pieces out on one ore two large platters. Sprinkle 1/2 the salt and squeeze the juice from 3/4 of a lemon over them. Lightly rub the salt and lemon juice into the slits. Turn the chicken pieces over and do the same on the other side with the remaining salt & lemon juice. Set aside for 20 minutes

Combine the yoghurt, onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, and garam masala in the container of an electric blender or a food processor. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Empty the paste into a strainer st over a large ceramic or stainless steel bowl. Push the paste through.
Brush the chicken pieces on both sides with the food colouring* and then put them with any accumulated juices and any remaining food colouring, into the bowl with the marinade. Mix well, making sure that the marinade goes into the slits in the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 6-24 hours (the longer the better).
Preheat oven to its maximum temperature. Take the chicken pieces out of the bowl, shaking off as much of the marinade as possible. Arrange them in a large shallow baking tray in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just done. You might test the chicken with a fork just to be sure. Serve hot, with lime wedges.

*The traditional orange colour of cooked tandoori chicken comes from food coloring. You may or may not want to use it. If you do, mix 3 Tbsp yellow and 1/2 to 1 1/2 Tbsp red liquid food colours to get a bright orange shade. If your red is very dark, use only 1/2 Tbsp of it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Turkey Chili- Prime Time Emerill

I've decided to start targeting cookbooks for a while so that I could make my way through each one that I own. Prime Time Emerill was actually one of Shawn's cookbooks from before we met. I say "was" because I consider them all to be mine now (sorry, babe!). I've made one other recipe from this, but have been peeking through for the past few weeks in search of whatever dish I was making that week and decided that this week I would just pick something from it.

That something was chili! I make turkey chili all the time, but typically do it armed with my crockpot and canned beans. I already love my chili, but figured I could try another variation to see if there was anything that I could do to make mine even better. The recipe seemed pretty simple and wasn't too crazy on the ingredient end. With the exception of beans from scratch... attempt number two!!

Like a good girl, I soaked my beans overnight this time! I wasn't sure how much to make.. I know that pasta and rice double up when cooked, but didn't know if dried beans did the same. I couldn't find any feedback on that, so decided to make the 4 cups needed for my recipe and I could use any extra in another dish later in the week. Turns out I'll be making something else this week because beans do, in fact, double when you soak and cook them. The next day, I found a larger batch of black and purple beans! It also turns out that you should soak white and black beans separately, or else you end up with colored white beans. It looks odd at first, but they settled into a greyish color that wasn't as noticable when in the final product. I rinsed them and simmered for another hour, skimming that nasty foam off it, and put them back in the fridge.

No wonder I use canned beans..... this doesn't seem worth the hassle in my opinion.....

Anyhow, I browned my ground turkey and spices, added the veggies, and simmered it all together with my homemade chicken broth for an hour and a half, until it got a little thicker. I took Emerill's advice and put it all away in the fridge to eat the next day- because that's when chili is at it's best.

Side Note/ Cooking Tip- I get a big package of split chicken breasts when they are on sale for $1 a pound; skin them, and put them in the crock pot overnight. Even better, sometimes I add the leftover carrots and celery that I keep in a bag in the freezer. The next day you end up with beautifully shredded chicken and about a gallon of homemade chicken broth. I keep the broth in a Rubbermaid pitcher in the fridge and use it for everything- basting, sauces, whatever. It's easy to pour and stores right on the door. Fabulous.

The next day, I heated up half of the chili on the stove. It was a little watery but the beans were, thankfully, cooked to the right consistancy. Score for me! The taste was nice, and the consistancy was great, but I have to be honest- I like my own better. I prefer the thickness that crushed tomatoes give and I add corn and more vegetables which is just a personal preference. Oh, and mine is made in the crockpot, so it cooks while I'm at work. I did, however, like that making this recipe gave me tips to improve what I already do! I loved the addition of fresh cilantro and think I also might try replacing jalepeno with a shot of Sriracha hot sauce, which I did my bowl when I needed an extra kick. And best of all; I finally made dried beans that tasted good!

I had just enough left over to put aside in the freezer for chili mac in the future. I love a meal that keeps on giving!

Turkey Chili- Prime Time Emerill
2T olive oil
1- 1 1/4 lb lean ground turkey
2T chili powder
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped & seeded tomatoes
2T minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp seeded & minced jalepenos
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 cups each black & whilte cooked or canned beans
4 cups chicken stock

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy stockpot over med-high heat. Add the turkey, chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until the turkey loses it's pink color, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and cook until they soften, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, jalepeno, and garlic and cook to blend the flavors, about 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to med-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

Overnight Honey Almond Multigrain Cereal- Cooking Light

Like millions of Americans, I have high cholesteral. I know what I'm supposed to eat, and not eat, but my love of good food makes it so tough! I try to incorporate things into my diet to improve my numbers, specifically oats. One of my biggest challenge with this is that I am not the hugest fan of oatmeal. I've tried it again and again and am finally at the point where I can stand it. I used to work at a hotel where I could get fresh oatmeal whenever I chose and always prefer when it is a little dryer versus when it's runny. Because of this, I just cannot wrap my palate around instant oatmeal. Since leaving that hotel, I'm stuck trying to find options of how to eat oatmeal at work and came across this recipe in Cooking Light.

The recipe calls for steel cut oats, which is my favorite variation of oatmeal. It's cut into small pieces, rather than flakes, and ends up with an almost crunchy texture, similar to tobiko or caviar. You also add barley, which is a softer texture and a nice compliment.

It's pretty easy to set up- you combine the steel cut oats and barley with water, soak overnight, then microwave for 6 minutes, stirring at 3 minutes. Add salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon and top with almonds and honey. I took the spices in a little container to add and always keep nuts and honey in my desk, so I was ready for that part.

The cereal was delicious! I had to cook it a little longer than it called for, but it was really tasty and filling. My coworker was jealous over the fabulous smell that came from the spices. I could barely finish what I had, so I could definitely share with someone next time.

Overnight Honey Almond Multigrain Cereal- Cooking Light

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fiesta Pork and Cheesy Polenta- Rachel Ray Everyday

I picked up a copy of Rachel Ray's magazine, Everyday, last month to see if I could find something interesting. A lot of people find Rachel annoying, but I love her. The fact that she has inspired millions of people to start cooking negates any lack of culinary training, in my opinion. She finds ways to make delicious things in a quick amount of time, which is right up my alley.

So, I'm really excited because this recipe completed a 2 recipe day!! After making the corn & cheese enchiladas for lunch I confirmed that a friend would be coming over for dinner. I'd been wanting to try this recipe out and had everything on hand, so I went with it!

I bought a pork tenderloin at the supermarket. It was about 1/2 of what I needed, so I cut it in half and put the rest in the freezer for another time. I sliced up the pork, coated with the spices, and set aside. Then, I sliced up the scallions and peppers, measured out my ingredients and put everything aside for when it was time to make dinner. Once it was time, I can't believe how quick this was to make! By the time the polenta was done (instant polenta, mind you) the pork and veggies were ready to go! The polenta itself was a little intimidating. I've never made it before, so I made sure to follow the recipe to a T. I boiled the water and added the polenta, salt, and pepper. It clumped up quickly, which really worried me! Once it was stirred, I added the cream and cheese and just kept stirring like crazy. Luckily, the clumps were nonexistant when all was said and done.

I put the polenta on the plate and topped it with the pork mixture. It was such a beautiful presentation! The pork was so tender, the spices worked nicely, and I loved the contrast in textures between the corn and the polenta. I really found this to be a fantastic dish. Shawn wasn't thrilled with the texture of the polenta- it is similar to cream of wheat and he didn't like how it starts to firm up as it cools down. Dana and I disagreed and thought it made the dish.

All in all, I think this is a fabulous dish to make when you have company and want to impress with little fuss. It took me 10 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to cook and voila! Fabulous dish that looks amazing.

Fiesta Pork with Cheesy Polenta- Rachel Ray Everyday

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Corn and Cheese Enchiladas- All You

A few years ago I found this cheesy magazine at Walmart called "All You". Granted, it's sponsored by Walmart, but I have come to love it over time. They always have a lot of simple and inexpensive recipes and, more importantly, there are about $75 worth of coupons in each issue. I'm an avid coupon clipper so for me, it pays for the issue and then some. I finally subscribed to the magazine, since I typically prefer Target for my superstore shopping.

My sister in law came to visit us this weekend and was nice enough to give us a night off from the boy. She follows this blog so I promised to make her something while she was in town. This morning I gave her a few recipes to choose from; she narrowed it down to two and Shawn chose the enchiladas. I was happy about this, being that I love any type of Mexican food!

The recipe takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, which is my kind of thing. I wrapped the corn tortillas in foil and put them in the oven while it preheated. I heated some oil in a skillet and added scallions and garlic, sauteed for 1 minute, and then stirred in the corn & milk and cooked, stirring, until thickened. The mixture never really got thick, but I used a slotted spoon and it was fine. I removed the tortillas and scooped a spoonful of the corn mix and 1 Tbsp of cheese into each one, then put in the baking dish, seam down. Some of them broke apart, but that happens to me every time I make enchiladas and they taste and look just fine when finished.

I almost made a big mistake!! I forgot to grease the pan and added all the enchiladas... thankfully, I remembered this before pouring on the sauce and was able to transfer everything to another dish before adding the sauce and cheese. I used Trader Joes enchilada sauce, which is my absolute favorite.

I baked it for 20 minutes at 350 and it was DONE! Perfect texture and the corn added a nice sweetness. I will definitely make this again, but maybe add some chicken or sausage to the mix. I bet spinach would be good, too.

Corn and Cheese Enchiladas- All You

Asparagus with Shallot Butter- Minute Meals; 3 ways to Dinner

I received this book about 5 years ago as a holiday gift and I've made one or two thing from it. I like the format- it basically breaks an entire 30 minute meal into steps and gives you a shopping list for everything in the meal. The book breaks itself down by the main ingredient, so the book starts with 3 recipes for boneless chicken breasts, then 2 for chicken thighs, 3 for chicken tenders, and so on. The recipe I picked came from a meal with chicken and sweet potatoes, but I used it as a side with my standard pork chops with gravy and stuffing. I wanted to make an asparagus dish and had shallots on hand, so it was an easy pick!

I started by boiling the asparagus in a large skillet for 4-6 minutes. I drained them and added thinly sliced shallots with butter & lemon juice. The end result was delicious! I loved the addition of the shallots and the lemon added a nice touch to the dish.

Asparagus with Shallot Butter- Minute Meals
1 lb thin asparagus
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Trim asparagus
2. Fill a large skillet with 1 inch water, cover, and bring to a boil. Add asparagus, bring water back to a boil, and simmer for 4-6 minutes, or until just crisp tender. Drain and transfer to serving dish
3. In the same skillet, melt butter over medium heat for about 1 minute, or until beginning to brown. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until softened. Swirl in the lemon juice and season with salt & pepper. Pour butter over asparagus. Cover to keep warm.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Red Beans & Rice- How to Cook Everything

"Even Babe Ruth strikes out sometimes".....

That's what Shawn said when all was said and done. I have to say that this was my biggest disappointment so far. It took a lot of time and preparation and the end result wasn't at all what I had hoped for.

I'll start at the beginning by letting you know that I am severely challenged when it comes to cooking rice. I wish I could blame it on something else, like my pans or my stove, but it's always been this way. It comes out too watery, too underdone, too overdone.... I could follow the recipe to a T and it never works. Even rice a roni. It's pretty bad. So, I was hoping that with my new endeavors that I would be able to overcome this problem. Not so much.

The recipe started out the night before the Superbowl. We were in the midst of a snowstorm and I was a cooking fool. I got out my trusty HTCE cookbook, which actually breaks this down into two recipes- Red Beans with Meat that you later include in the Red Beans and Rice recipe. The thing that made me choose this over others is that I could use the pork bone I had in the freezer from my roast pork and the chicken andouille sausage I keep on hand for jambalaya. It also requires the use of coconut milk, which really intrigued me.

My first mistake was that the since the recipe didn't mention to soak my beans overnight I did not take this step. It resulted in my beans never really getting soft enough. I rinsed and picked over the beans, then put them in a pot with water & the pork bone. While this simmered, I sauteed the sausage and added the onions, peppers, & garlic to the fat. When it was soft, I added back the sausage, then added the spices and tomatoes. Chopped the pork left on the bone and added it to the mix. Then I mixed it all together and cooked until beans are soft. I thought they were soft enough, since I cooked well beyond the time required, but not so much.

I'll take this moment to offer a great tip that I love to use when cooking with a lot of ingredients. You know those little white coffee filters that come in a big pack for $1? I love these!!!! I use them to hold my garlic, spices, whatever items I have prepped and toss them when I'm done. So quick and easy.

The next day, I reheated the mixture on the stove and then added the rice and coconut milk and cooked on low until the rice was tender. Of course, when the requested 20 minutes had completed the rice was no where near cooked. I cooked it for probably another 20 minutes until it was ready and even then it had a risotto consistancy that would have been nice if it was risotto, but not so much in this case. The meat and flavor was fantastic, but between the firmer texture of the beans and the rice, it was not something we wanted to finish. Thankfully, it was the superbowl and there were other things to eat, but I felt like I had wasted a lot of time and food on this recipe.

I guess that after all of the great results that I've accomplished one bad dish isn't so bad....

Red Beans with Meat- How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Makes 6-8 servings

2 cups kidney, pinto, or other beans, washed and picked over
1 or 2 meaty smoked ham hock, 1 chunk of bacon, or salt pork, or 1 meaty ham or pork bone.
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage or spicy Cajun sausage
1 large onion
1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, & chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4-5 springs thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 c chopped tomatoes (canned are fine)
salt & pepper to taste

1. Place beans in a large pot with water to cover. Turn to high and bring to boil; skim foam if necessary. Add ham hock and turn heat to simmer. Cover loosely and stir very occasionally; add extra water if needed
2. Place sausage in skillet and turn heat to medium. Cook, turning occasionally, and pricking sausage a few times to release it's fat. When they are browned, remove; don't worry about it being done. Cut into small chunks.
3. Cook onions, pepper, and garlic in fat, stirring frequently, until peppers are softened, about 10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Return sausage to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until chunks are browned all over. Return veggies to the pan, along with thyme, bay leaves, allspice, and tomatoes. Turn to med-low and cook, stirring, until tomatoes break up, 10- 15 minutes.
4. When meat in beans is soft, remove. When cool, chop all the meat and return to the pot, along with sausage & vegetable mixture. Cook, until the beans are very tender. Remove and discard bay leaves. Taste & add S&P to taste.

Red Beans and Rice- How to Cook Everything; Mark Bittman

3 cups Red Beans with Meat
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups canned or fresh coconut milk, warmed
salt & pepper, to taste
minced parsley, for garnish

1. Place beans in a saucepan that can hold at least double their bulk comfortably. Turn heat to med-low and warm gently. If there is a great deal of liquid in the beans, cook them, stirring frequently, until they are moist but not swimming in liquid
2. Add the rice & coconut milk to the beans. Cover & turn heat to low. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. If necessary, uncover & raise heat to med-high; cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Season with S&P.

Stromboli- Parenting Magazine

We just got smacked with a crazy snow storm, which led me to cook all weekend long. A lot of what I made were old favorites (lasagne, turkey BLTs, buffalo chicken dip) but I wanted to get a few new ones rolling, too. I thought stromboli would be a good Superbowl Day option.

I found this in an old Parenting Magazine and copied it down, knowing I'd try it out one day. I looooove stromboli, but haven't been able to master the cooking times. Another weird thing is that very few places in this area actually roll their stromboli- they make it more like a folded pizza. This is ridiculous to me! I finally found a place that folds it at least in a stromboli shape and has flavor, but this is definitely something that I want to master on my own.

The recipe calls for Pillsbury pizza dough, which is simple enough. Baking is not a strong suit of mine and I like that the pizza dough comes in a square already!! Makes life a little more simple. I have minimal counter space, so I wrapped the cookie sheet in saran wrap and used it as my work station on the stove. Sprinkled flour, rolled out the dough, and topped with turkey pepperoni and cheese. I rolled up the stromboli, brushed it with an egg mixture and bake @ 400 for 20 minutes. Not only did the saran wrap make for easy cleanup, but it also made rolling the stromboli a cinch!

First off, I love the use of turkey pepperoni instead of regular for this!!! It gave flavor with less grease. The best part was that the cooking time was spot on. The egg wash gave it a nice, cripsy, golden crust and the inside was perfectly cooked. I'll add a little more cheese next time (because cheese is delicious!) but I was really happy with the end product.

Stromboli- Parents Magazine
1 canister pizza dough
1 cup mozzarella cheese
2 oz pepperoni

1 egg, mixed with 1 Tbsp water

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fettuccini Alfredo with Bacon- Cooking Light

OK, so now that I'm truly tracking these I can see that I'm totally getting my moneys worth on my Cooking Light subscription! I was excited that just when I started getting into using applewood smoked bacon, Cooking Light featured thick cut bacon in an issue. The theory is that when sparingly used, and in substitution of another meat, it can add a lot of flavor with less calories than a full serving of protein. I decided to try the fettuccini recipe because fettuccini alfredo is one of Shawn's favorite dishes.

I've been buying bacon at Trader Joe's (my favorite store in the world) and love it!! The applewood smoked one has about 12 slices per package and is about 1/4 inch thick. I love my bacon a little well done and when you use this type it still keeps a chewiness to it. Yum! I started by chopping the bacon and sauteeing it on medium heat for a few minutes, until crisp. I added garlic & flour to the grease to create a roux, then added milk and stirred to make the cream sauce. Then you add the parmesan cheese a little at a time. Stir with cooked pasta and top with bacon!

I used Springfield garlic & basil fettuccini (a local brand) that I got at the nearby bodega. I liked the texture, but the flavor didn't quite go with the sauce. Shawn didn't notice it, but I definitely did. The sauce was very tasty and I loved the crisp bacon. You could tell that the sauce was a light version, as it wasn't as creamy, but it had a nice texture and tasted delicious. I would definitely make this again, but with a different pasta.

Fettuccini Alfredo with Bacon- Cooking Light

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Steak Tips with Peppered Mushroom Gravy- Cooking Light

When I first started on my project, I was adament that I had to follow the recipe 100% to have it count. Now that I'm further along, I am realizing that I need to have some flexibility to make it really work. Take this recipe for example.... I love mushrooms and have always tossed aside recipes with it. Shawn finally agreed that I can make things with mushrooms as long as they are easy to locate and pick out. So, it's on!!! He also loves steak tips, so I picked this as the recipe of the week and decided to add onions along with the mushrooms so he could enjoy the added texture of the veggies.

This was another really easy recipe to make. I sliced up the steak and sauteed it until browned, then set aside. Then I sauteed up the shallots, mushrooms, and onions, added the soy sauce, and sprinkled the flour over it to thicken. After a minute I added the broth and stirred constantly until the sauce was smooth and all the bits from the pan had come up. I am becoming a deglazing master! I love the added flavor and getting up the bits from the pan when I'm sauteeing makes it easier to clean later. Added bonus!

Another subsitution, and a big one, but I took a tip from the comments section and served everything over mashed potatoes. We've been having pasta so often that we needed a switch up! It was delicious!! The meat tasted great and the soy sauce gave a wonderful flavor to the dish. I definitely want to try this with noodles next time and will probably cook the onions a few minutes longer than I did this time.

Another tasty addition!!

Steak Tips with Peppered Mushroom Gravy- Cooking Light