Tandoori Style Chicken Drumsticks with Spinach in Yogurt

 

I made a deal with myself about food blogging. It goes like this: I will not blog everything I make just because I can and I will not recommend anything I create based on the sole reason that I made it.  A blogger code of ethics if you will. This deal means that the recipes I write about will hopefully come from real recommendation, not just so that I can provide filler content to keep my blog a truckin’. I’ll be honest, it gets hard sometimes when I’m not posting like a mad woman. I feel a like I’m neglecting something, or dare I say,  a bad blogger? Good thing I try not to take this food blogging so seriously these days.

This does mean that the everyday dishes aren’t often written about simply because they turn out as good things to eat, either fast or meditative in preparation, just another part of my daily life. But when a regular everyday recipe sticks with me, making rounds week in and week out, I start  jotting down the adjustments and notes in my low-tech mole skin notebook, knowing then that I feel inspired to write. Tandoori style chicken drumsticks are exactly that kind of everyday recipe turned noteworthy by the perfection of repetition. The recipe is from  America’s Test Kitchen recipe.    I’ve made DIY versions of tandoori style chicken with a free-styled yogurt marinade many times before. Yet what struck me as genius  about this recipe was the instruction to only add the yogurt prior to cooking, cutting down time, but keeping the flavor intact. This small step  improved the tang and juiciness of the chicken. The technique of browning the chicken parts under broiler for the last bit of cooking added that much needed char reminiscent of real tandoori cooked chicken.

These moist and deeply flavored tandoori-style chicken drumsticks were simply spot on, a new recipe to keep trying. So far I’ve used adjustments for both a whole chicken, deboned and cut into parts, as well as for whatever chicken parts I might have on hand. Since I’m still (slowly but surely) knocking off recipes in my pursuit of cooking all 102 Mark Bittman Essential recipes from How to Cook Everything in my personal challenge, I’m calling this a check for roasted chicken parts in olive oil or butter since it’s essentially the same idea.

To compliment the indian-inspired dish I adapted another Bittman recipe. I made a simple spinach in yogurt  based off of Bittman’s Cold Cooked Greens, Greek Style. It’s a perfect no-fuss greens recipe for the late summer since it can be served warm of cool. This dish also adds the right layering for tandoori chicken and basmati rice on your plate. The pairing was perfect.

 

Tandoori Style Chicken Drumsticks
from America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons minced ginger
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 cup of plain yogurt
1 red onion, cut into wedges
3 to 4 pounds chicken parts
2 teaspoons of salt

Directions:

1. Heat the canola oil over medium in skillet. Add garlic/ginger saute until lightly brown, about 1 minute until fragrant. Add cumin, chilli powder, and garam masala. Stir spices for 30 seconds, remove from heat and split spice mixture into 2 bowls.

2. Combine half of lemon and lime juice in one bowl of the spice mixture and add 2 teaspoons of salt. In the other bowl add the yogurt to the spice mixture plus the other half of lemon/lime juice.

3. Score the chicken. Rub the first mixture— lemon/lime, spice, and salt—into the chicken. Let marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge.

4. Heat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the spice rubbed chicken and red onion chinks with the yogur/spice mixture.  Arrange on baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes, or until the internal temp is around 125 (not fully cooked that is).

5. Remove the baking sheet, heat the broiler, and brown chicken for 8 to 15 minutes, or until the internal temp is 165.

 

Cooked Greens with Yogurt
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

Ingredients:
1 pound of spinach
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 lemon
1 cup of plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Boil water and cook the greens for just a few minutes. Drain.

2. Chop the greens on a cutting board.

3. In a bowl combine the chopped + cooked greens, the olive oil, lemon juice, plain yogurt, and salt/pepper. Taste and adjust.

4. Can be served warmed up again (in a skillet), at room temperature, or cold.

 

 

 

 

An Ode to Allston, MA with a Bowl of Homemade Pho Ga

 

The Allston neighborhood of Boston–which I happen to live right near though not in–is more often than not ridiculed as a college slum. It is affectionately called Allston Rock City because of its music scene and do it yourself house shows and Allston Rat City, well, because there sure are a lot of rats come trash day.

I will concede that there are more than a lot of college kids in the heart of Allston. Harvard Avenue, the main drag filled with food, bars, and cheap furniture stores, fills up on  most nights with college kids in every direction. The trolley or T  that runs out to the neighborhood is notoriously slow and glutted with students. Then there’s the crowding into apartments and subsequent waste that accumulates every time a semester or lease ends. On September first it’s even called Allston Christmas since on every corner a mountainous pile of futons, cheap lamps, and discarded couches grows dangerously high in a mere 24-hour period as college kids either move out, move in, or simply start new somewhere else in the city. (Be wary of taking something you find on the street. There are rules to Allston.)

But despite all this, I have to admit it I actually love Allston, because below the surface, there is so much culinary flavor and cheap eats, how could I not come to love the place?  There are at least two shabu shabu restaurants, the kind that serve big portions for low prices, blocks away from each other. There is middle eastern, sushi, Korean BBQ and Fried chicken, Salvadorean, VEgan pizza, and Nepalese to name a few and bars with more craft beer than is humanly possible to try (two of which were named by Draft Magazine as part of the 100 best beer bars in America!)  I dislike the constant ragging on Allston as a college-this or college-that because it obscures the fact that thriving immigrant communities live and make Allston interesting too.  At a point making fun of and trashing the neighborhood as a result of it’s college reputation seems to close to trashing on the other people that live there.

The crowning jewel of my love for Allston is the Super 88 grocery store and food court (or is a Hong Kong supermarket now? The sign still hasn’t changed.) It’s part pan-asian supermarket and part pan-asian food court. Mostly, it is all awesome. In the food court side, you’ve got everything from Hong Kong style dim sum to Northern Indian take out to Koream bimbimbap. My favorite is the Vietnamese counter, where you can get massive bowls of pho bo and pho ga for under 10 dollars. If you feel inspired by the tastes of the food court the grocery store has everything under the sun you may need to recreate the cuisines of Asia. I’ve spent so many lazy sundays in the Super 88, waiting out the harsh Boston winters with bowsl of pho or tracking down that final ingredients for a new recipe. Galangal ginger! Purple basil! Thai chilies! Oh my.

So when I finally decided to a try making a version of pho ga at home, Vietnamese chick noodle soup in my over simplification of this immensely popular national dish, it seemed only right to dedicate the effort to Allston in all it’s rough-and-tumble glory. Firstly, because my love of pho is born of my time at the Super 88, my Allston go-to. Secondly, because I’m always thankful to I can hop on a bus and appreciate the little extras the neighborhood has, experiencing it underneath the empty stereotypes. And lastly because homemade pho seems a perfect way to honor a section of the city where everything comes crashing at once, from college kids to rock shows in basements to hardworking immigrants to cheap eats from all over the world. It’s not about making the most authentic pho, or finding the best in the city, its just about the process.

I like you just the way you are Allston, rats and all. (Okay, maybe fewer rats would be better for everyone…)

Quick Homemade Pho Ga

Adapted from: Steamy Kitchen & Chez Us

Serves 4-6

For the Broth:

1/2 white onion
1 3 inch chunk of ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
3 star anise pods
fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon
1 cinnamon stick
8 cups of chicken broth
1 small bunch of cilantro, washed
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (or to taste)
2-3 cups of water

Main:
1 whole skinless and boneless chicken breast. Mine was around 1.5 pounds of breast meat.
1 lb of noodles

Toppings:

mint, roughly torn
basil, roughly torn
scallions, sliced
quarters of lime
bean sprouts
thinly sliced red onions
Sriracha
Hoisin sauce

Directions:

1.  In a broil safe pan (like a cast iron skillet) brown the peeled ginger and onion until beginning to blacken, around 10 minutes. Peel away any burnt areas.

2. Toast the coriander seeds, the anise pods, fennel seeds, and cinnamon stick in a deep stock pot until just fragrant. Be careful not to burn.

3. Add the chicken broth, onion, ginger, 1 small bunch of cilantro (stem and leaves), and the fish sauce to the stock pot with the toasted spices. Bring to boil. Add the chicken breast. Reduce to just below a boil. Poach the chicken for around 20 minutes until cooked. Remove and shred.

4. While the chicken is poaching cook the rice noodles according to the package.

5. The Pho Ga stock may have reduced now by some. Taste and adjust for taste. You may want to add another 2-3 cups of water. Once ready, remove from heat.

6. Strain the chicken broth in a fine mesh colander. I found lining the colander with a paper towel helped catch any small spices that may have broken down while simmering.

7. Divide the broth into bowls. Add noodles, shredded chicken, and then top to your fancy.

8. Store leftovers in separate containers so you can quickly reassemble for another meal!

Herb-Orange Salad and Harissa Marinated Chicken Thighs

It is December.

We have a real christmas tree in the apartment. It smells sweet. It is the first real tree I’ve had.  I’m in the midst of planning a trip to Paris in March that is keeping me looking right through the cold winter looming ahead and my nose stuck in travel guides at the bookstore. And, on top of all this,  I haven’t blogged since before thanksgiving. I took a mini break  mostly to enjoy getting cooked for once. But I’m back.

Last night we made dinner for my mother and brother. I really wanted an excuse to try out some simple dishes based on the cookbook Ottolenghi, so I invited them over and tried my luck at something out of the ordinary. The Otolenghi cookbook is a real culinary hit these days. I only came to know of its existence, and the influence of the cafe by the same name in London, after other food bloggers started name dropping it left and right.  Figuring it had to be the cats meow, I requested the book from the library and waited patiently until I was next on the list.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is beautifully clean in aesthetic, with lush images and simple black text on white backgrounds. It is abundant with Middle East meets Western Europe dishes–think spice, color, and lemons everywhere.

The family coming over was a good excuse to get inspired by the book. To start, we had crostini with a white bean puree. I loosely based this on a recipe in the book, omitting the fixings like roasted pepper and scallions to instead let the white beans and lemon stand out on their own. Next was an herb salad based loosely on a simple but bold herb salad in the very start of the book. I changed the composition of the salad, adding pithed orange slices, cinnamon toasted almonds, more parsley, and dill. The salad was awesome. It is funny to get so excited about a salad but this one is a keeper. Next we followed this time pretty closely a recipe for harissa marinated chicken thighs. The biggest alternation is that I dialed down the heat in the harissa in case it was too powerfull for my guests. Next time, I’d mostly likely add more heat to the harissa because I am a fan of spice.  On the side we made bulgur with nothing but lemon, pepper, and salt. To finish out the meal was a walnut short bread meets cake not from Otollenghi but from Marcella Hazan, the kind of simple Italian dessert that is just perfect with after dinner coffee.

A good meal, indeed. We ate it all. Lemons were in every dish.

Herb Salad with Oranges and Almonds
Adapted from the Otollenghi: The Cookbook

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 cups of parsley leaves, washed and dried
3/4 cup dill leaves, washed and dried
4 cups of argula, washed and dried
2 navel oranges, peeled, pithed, and ripped into chunks
3/4 cup unskinned almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of orange juice
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Mix in a large bowl the parsley, dill, and argula.

2. Over a large bowl to catch the orange juice, peel an orange, break open each segment and remove the pith. Break each into small chunks and toss into salad. Repeat for second orange.

3, Toast on low in a skillet the almonds with the cinnamon. Toss the almonds and the cinnamon in the pan into the salad.

4. Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil and orange juice with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Harissa Marinated Chicken Thighs
Adapted from Otollenghi: The Cookbook

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 mild red chilies, minced (if you want more heat add a dried pepper too)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 roasted red pepper, jarred or freshly roasted
the juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1/ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
8-10 chicken thighs with bone and skin

Directions:

1. Cook the minced chillies, garlic cloves, and red onion in a skillet with the spices until fragrant.

2. Place all ingredients except greek yogurt and chicken thighs (of course) in a food processor. Process until smooth. This is your harissa paste.

3. Mix Greek yogurt and harissa. Marinate chicken thighs for  at least an hour and up to overnight.

4. Preheat the oven to 4205. Spread chicken thighs evenly spaced on a baking sheet. Cook for 5 minutes. Lower heat to 350. Cook until done, around 12-15 minutes.

Fricassed Chicken with Bay Leaves and Parsley

I have a new idea. Let me explain it.

Every week, I am going to cook a new recipe from a new cookbook to challenge myself with new cuisines and new techniques. New is key here. Good thing for me and my voracious appetite for books (and food) the library is bursting with cookbooks to start with. This new weekly focus is kind of like a cookbook recommendation system too. Think of it as a reviewing process for both me and you.

The first pick for blogged about cookbook is Marcella Hazan’s Marcella Cucina. I wanted to find a copy of her more well known Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking but it was out. Oh well, this newer book sparked my curiousity too.

Marcella is the kind of lady who had the power to expose Americans to real Italian cooking. She is up there in the pantheon of cookbook authors who changed the culinary landscape for the better. The only thing I’d known about her until I started with this book was a  simple sauce she created, one with just butter, tomatoes, and a whole onion, that took the blog world by storm. It really is an excellent tomato sauce too.

Marcella’s recipes revolve around ingredients and flavors local to the different regions of Italy. I enjoy that the recipes vary so widely, especially in regards to ingredients I often assume are in every Italian dish. Sadly, I wish I had the time to blog about every recipe I flagged or stopped to read a few times. The cooking wheels of my brain are churning over the idea of an onion spread for crostini as well as all the cranberry bean soups Marcella describes in detail.

But with a whole chicken sitting in the fridge, Brian and I picked a simple fricasseed chicken recipe that offers comforting flavors. It also seemed to be the kind of technique we should get better at. We made a few alternations. We didn’t have any celery. I increased the onions to compensate. This may be a mistake, but who knows.  I found it quite fine this way but I realize celery is one of those essential ingredients. We also didn’t quite brown the chicken as long as we were supposed to. Next time I will for sure brown the chicken longer until the color is noticeably brown and golden. I must admit too that I poured quite liberally with the white wine. I saw the leftover bottle in the fridge and thought, why not add more?

Overall, I’d call this a recipe a  success. It was a more interesting weeknight meal than I’m used to, and although the chicken simmered for a bit it is a quite painless and easy kind of meal. I’m planning to make this again soon if only to make it better. I’m quite Smitten with Marcella. This cookbook may be a frequent one for me.

p.s.

I would like to add, since as I’m typing this the internet is a storm with the Cooks Source plagarism meme, that I never copy any recipes word for word from any source. Everything I write is in my own words. I also attribute my sources. Just saying.

Fricassed Chicken with Bay Leaves and Parsley
Adapted closely from Marcella Cucina

Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 1/2 pound chicken, broken down into the 8 pieces with the skin on, washed + patted dryed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed with a knife and peeled, but left whole
4 dried bay leaves
salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon butter

Directions:
1. Place oil in skillet that can accommodate all of the chicken parts with out overlapping. Add onions. Heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes so the onions become fragrant but only lightly gold.

2. Add parsley and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes. Stir to make sure the contents don’t burn.

3. Place chicken pieces skin side down. Cook until browned. Flip and brown the other side.

4. Mix pan, turning chicken and contents around to evenly coat as you keep the browning going.

5. Once the pieces have been browned on all sides add the white wine and dried bay leaves. Mix up the bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook uncovered until you can smell that the alcohol has evaporated from the liquid.

6. Cover and simmer on low until the chicken is done. The estimated time is 45 minutes for simmering. If all the liquid is gone before the chicken is done, add some extra stock or water.

7. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Plate chicken.  To the remaining sauce add some butter. Thicken over medium high heat. Douse chicken in this thickened pan sauce when serving.

North African Inspired Chicken Salad with Cilantro, Red Grapes and Ras al Hanout



Before I even get to the describing the dish at hand, a ridiculously easy chicken salad that isn’t half bad for you and tastes like you spent all day grinding together the spice combination (while you didn’t of course), I must confess a grave kitchen atrocity. Brian and I messed up while roasting a simple whole chicken. We’ve roasted many birds together  but for some reason this time we were asleep in the kitchen. I will spare you the details but it involved an improperly defrosted chicken. I was particularly frustrated with this kitchen failure because I really wanted the leftover chicken for this salad.

After leaving work on Monday in the rain apocalypse that drowned New England this week,  I reluctantly stopped at a nearby grocery store to buy some chicken breasts because as we all know I did not have the chicken meat from that chicken we didn’t roast correctly. I hate buying chicken parts because they are less economical than whole chickens. I really wanted chicken salad though. I was also completely drained from the work day, meaning I was not roasting a chicken, no way, no how. I might enjoy cooking, but I am not susie-homemaker. Roasting is left for the weekend when I can have Brian do most of the work. I gave in to the ways of the American grocery store and left with my over priced chicken breasts.
The inspiration for this salad started with an Ellie Krieger recipe for curried chicken salad that caught my eyes because it has less mayonnaise than traditional recipes and would use the leftover cilantro I had on hand. I also sensed that my newly acquired Ras al Hanout would fit nicely in place of the generic curry powder called for in the recipe.

Ras al Hanout is a spice blend that varies every time you make it; the one I picked up at a local spice store had a sign listing all the ingredients but. I can’t seem to remember them. From the taste of the blend I believe the first flavors to be cinnamon-y and sweet. Yet there is a smoky and hot bite at the end, one that lingers just a bit on your tongue. It reminds me of a nice garam masala with a bit more kick. The Ras al Hanout really made this chicken salad stand out. I’m sure a good garam masala or curry blend would be great too, but if you can find some Ras al Hanout why not try it? Curried chicken salad is a pretty standard recipe, so the subtly different spice blend was more exciting.

The finished salad was light but not lacking in richness. The chicken was extremely tender from being poached in water flavored with only salt, pepper, and a smashed garlic clove or two. The low fat Greek yogurt went a long way sustaining the chicken salad without adding the intense richness of mayonnaise. I do love mayonnaise, especially on a crispy bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich, but I often find it overwhelming in salads.

I loved the crunch and feel of the red grapes upon first bite, so I actually went back into the finished dish and added about a handful more than the recipe called for. I also nixed the almonds because I did not have any, but I added three scallions instead for texture and flavor. Almonds would be great, so I’m remembering them for next time definitely. Best of all, the flavors improved once they mingled in the fridge overnight. This salad was so much more exciting than my traditional peanut and butter sandwich at lunch.

North African Spiced Chicken Salad with Cilantro, Red Grapes, and Ras al Hanout.
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
poaching water ( I flavored mine with a mashed garlic clove and salt and pepper)
1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of Ras al Hanout powder
1 cup or more of halved red grapes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
3 scallions, sliced thin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Poach the chicken breasts. I do this by boiling the water, turning the heat down so it is just below boiling, and then put the chicken breasts in. I let them sit in this almost boiling water for about 20 minutes. Flavor the water any which way. I threw in a mashed garlic clove and salt and pepper.

2. Take the poached chicken breasts and cut into small peices. Cool the chicken in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. In a separate bowl mix the yogurt, mayo and ras al hanout.

3. Once the chicken is cool mix in the yogurt, mayo and ras al hanout. Fold in the grapes, cilantro, and scallions. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Eat immediately or cool in the fridge for longer. Either way, it is quite good!

Coq Au Vin

Brian’s mother gave us a recipe for coq au vin as a housewarming gift alongside a new dutch oven. We decided to give the recipe a try albeit in another dutch oven since we made the recipe with a larger chicken than it called for. We are just rolling in dutch ovens these days, which is great for all the no-knead bread we bake.

We didn’t have a few of the essential ingredients for the recipe, like bacon. We love bacon dearly but we were both too lazy (and hungry) to go in search of some. The coq au vin purists may call this unforgivable but did this stop us? No. We are always hungry and ready to cook. Brian also dislikes mushrooms so we opted for sliced carrots instead. Carrots are the vegetable of choice in this apartment; we literally have a 5 lb bag of them in the fridge. We made a great carrot salad the other day, which I expect will be a new staple of our diet, and thus make it onto this blog in the near future.

I digress.

We made our loosely adapted coq au vin and it was delicious, and reminiscent of all those proper Sunday meals I enjoyed as a kid. The wine sauce was light but made the chicken fall of the bone with succulent juices.  It was a filling and stretchable meal too; we enjoyed it for three nights during the week. I even thickened some of the sauce afterwards to serve rice.

The recipe below is with the bacon, although you don’t need it. But if you have some, why not? Bacon makes everything better.

Coq Au Vin

From Brian’s Mom!

(print recipe)

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of oil
2 tablespoon of butter
3 oz of bacon, cut into small chunks or lardons
1 onion, cut into strips
3 1/2 lb chicken, jointed
1 tablespoon of flour
2 1/2 cups of red wine
a boquet garni (we used fresh parsley, and some dried thyme and sage instead of fresh)
some fresh or dried rosemary
a pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups of mushrooms (or carrots!)
salt
black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Heat the oil and butter in a large dutch oven on the stove top over medium heat. Cook the bacon and onions until they are golden.

3. Remove the bacon and onions. Brown each piece of chicken in the pan one at a time, removing after browned.

4. Sprinkle flour into the pan and cook a few minutes

5. Return the chicken, onions and bacon to the pan. Pour in the wine and add the herbs, sugar, nutmeg and carrots.

6. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or when the chicken is done.

How to Joint a Chicken

In the name of all things budget friendly, Brian and I are now fans of buying whole chickens. Taking the advice of the food budget extraordinaire Julia, I am all about  cooking and using every last bit of a chicken both for meals and for stock. Prepackaged chicken breasts are banished from our grocery cart.

But, as we took out our roaster to make Coq Au Vin,  we were a bit lost about the whole process of cutting or jointing a chicken into all the parts (breast, thigh, wing, and drumstick).  Sure, I’ve roasted a chicken a handful of times, but this was a whole new process.

Thankfully youtube makes everything easier in life. The video below is extremely helpful for understanding how to get all the meat off your chicken with ease. I especially like how crazed Gordon Ramsey is. While Joy of Cooking and Bittman have quite thorough instructions, there is nothing like visuals for making it all more seamless.