A Jerk or a Chicken?

6 05 2012

Between getting an iPad for Christmas and a smartphone for my birthday, somehow I feel less connected than ever.  (Oh, yeah, and I opened a restaurant, too.  It’s going well, which means it’s been keeping me very busy.  I’ll link to a few of my favorite reviews at the end of this post.) Seriously, though, does anyone else have this problem?  I almost never even turn on my computer anymore, to the point that I nearly forgot my password just now – fortunately, my fingers remembered where to go before I consciously knew what I was typing.  I mean, my phone notifies me immediately if I have an email, and if it’s something I want to respond to in any kind of depth, I leave it unread until I can get to the computer, because I hate typing on either of the aforementioned devices*. The vicious cycle continues until I have twenty-some messages that need attention and I feel so stressed about it that I just try to ignore all incoming email. First world problems, I know.  Speaking of, my wine glass is empty.  If you’ll pardon me while I go get a refill of La Beille’s delightful Macabeu

Like how I did that? Just started up again as though it hasn’t been almost 4 1/2 months since I so much as laid a keystroke on this blog of mine?  I’ve missed it.  I wanted to write something about our New Year’s menu, but I was on vacation, soaking up the moments with family and friends in anticipation of a very busy year to come.  And then I came back and the Busy happened.  More than I ever expected.  I worked 12-14 hour days for what seemed like forever, though it was probably only three weeks or so.  Then I got an assistant, which helped reduce my hours per day to a more reasonable 9-10.  But I was still working seven days a week.  I kept telling myself that as soon as I got a day off, I would write something for the blog.  I literally had one full day off between January 6 and March 24.  Blogging didn’t happen. Since then, I’ve gotten another part-time assistant, and I now have Sundays off.  They are usually spent going to the market, a museum or movie, cleaning the apartment, cooking something nice to eat, and winding down with a book, magazine, or maybe an episode or two of Boardwalk Empire (how nice that Steve Buscemi gets to be the badass for once).

Today, for example, I baked some apple muffins for breakfast, cooked up some spicy Spanish mussels - I couldn’t help but to punch it up with a little smoked paprika, which was great because the mussels themselves could have been better- for lunch, and am planning a homey meatloaf for dinner.  But few pictures get taken, even if I am taking note of the recipes.  Last week, however, I whipped up a jerk chicken recipe that I just had to document.  The sauce/marinade was so easy, and the dinner in general so effortless and mostly pantry-based, I needed to share it with the world.

I hope you like it as much as we did, and that it helps you through your own busy days.

Jerk Chicken

Fast, easy, and spicy, this recipe reminds me of the week I spent in Jamaica many years ago. And who couldn’t use a little island getaway every now and then?

3 hot peppers (ideally Scotch bonnet, but I used some skinny ones from North Africa, and they were good too)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large shallot or ½ a small red onion
2 large spring onions or 4-6 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. allspice berries, crushed
2” / 5 cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tsp. coarse salt
juice of ½ an orange

2 chicken leg quarters, or 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1. Purée the peppers, garlic, shallot, spring onions, thyme, allspice, ginger, salt, and orange juice to a paste. I used my immersion blender, as I always do, but you could also use a food processor or a regular blender.

2. Score the skin of the chicken with a sharp knife and slather on the jerk sauce, reserving some for dipping later, if desired. Rub the sauce all over the chicken and leave to marinate in the fridge 1-24 hours (I did this around noon for dinner at eightish).

3. Heat your broiler to 395 F / 200 C. When it’s nice and hot, place the chicken on a rack over a sheet pan or roasting pan (line the pan with foil first to reduce messy clean-up) and broil 12-15 minutes, flipping the chicken over about halfway through the cooking time, until the skin is browned and crisp, the marinade is fragrant, and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 165 F / 74 C.

4. Serve immediately with lime-cilantro quinoa (recipe follows).

Serves 2.

Lime-Cilantro Quinoa

This recipe spawned in my brain as a rice dish. It turned out I had no “regular” rice in the cupboard (I did have Thai, Basmati, Korean, and wild rices, but none of them seemed right), but I did have a box of quinoa. The flavors harmonized beautifully. Pardon the volume-only measures in this recipe – it’s still the way I cook grains.

2/3 cup quinoa
splash of neutral cooking oil (e.g. sunflower, grapeseed…)
1½ cups water
big pinch of coarse sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
pinch of sugar (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated with oil and just starting to get toasty.

2. Pour in the water, add the salt and garlic, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid, about 15 minutes.

3. Fluff with a fork, and mix in the cilantro and lime zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary with sugar, salt, and pepper.

Serves 2.

* * * * *

And now for the Blend reviews, if you’re interested.

In English: Alec Lobrano, Lindsey from Lost in Cheeseland (a burger hound if ever I knew one), Barbra Austin for Girls’ Guide to Paris, and Ann Mah.

In French: Le Fooding (as far as I know, my first mention by name in French food press – I was very, VERY excited to read this one), My Little Paris (names us Best Burger in Paris, resulting in our being completely slammed for weeks afterwards), Pascale from C’est moi qui l’ai fait!, and GQ France.

In print: An article by Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini in the March 2012 issue of Metropolitan (the Eurostar magazine), and a blurb by Adrian Moore for the May 2012 Monocle.

*And yet, I have become pathetically dependent on auto-correct to put spaces between words for me. I know I can’t be the only one… right?

p.s. What’s that post title about, anyway? Well, after such a long absence from blogging, I feel like a jerk for neglecting this space for so long, even if I do have some very valid excuses, and I’m also afraid I’ll have no readers left, which makes me a chicken.  And less inclined to write.  Yet another vicious cycle.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Cardamom and Black Pepper Chicken

1 07 2011

Almost exactly a year ago, I got bitten by the Indian cooking bug.  Since then, I’ve been cooking up various vegetable dals on a pretty regular basis.  So when Grapefruit of the blog Needful Things announced that she was starting a monthly Currypalooza event, I was very excited to participate.  Then life happened for a few months – my arsenal of Indian spices were all packed away and I couldn’t get to them, I had insanely busy weeks juggling houseguests, job interviews, and deadlines, but now that we’re finally settled in the new apartment and have a little time to breathe (thank you, vacation!) I’m pleased to be able to play along in this month’s Currypalooza.  The dish in question?  Madhur Jaffrey’s Cardamom and Black Pepper Chicken.

Look Ma!  No Carbs!

The recipe was delightfully quick – prepare a marinade for the chicken, let it sit while preparing the rest of the sauce, throw it in the sauce, marinade and all, and let it finish cooking.  I deviated from the recipe a bit, because I wasn’t sure how or why I should grate a tomato, so I just chopped one up.  Other than that, I was unusually faithful.  Grapefruit will be posting the recipe on her blog, and as soon as she does, I’ll put in the link.  And here it is!

What to serve with a saucy Indian chicken dish?  The obvious answer is probably rice, but Nick and I had already eaten rice at lunch that day.  Or naan, but it was a little too close to dinnertime to start kneading and proofing dough.  I didn’t feel like getting two pots dirty to make lentils, and I definitely wanted a vegetable component to the meal.  Mallika and her wonderful Quick Indian Cooking blog to the rescue!  There I found a delectable recipe for Masala Mattar, a spicy side dish featuring peas.  The two dishes worked well together, and I even got to have some of the leftover chicken for lunch the next day.  The peas were all gone, so that time, I made rice.

On this day in 2008: Get Confident, Stupid!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Cooking Colonial in Paris (Project Food Blog Challenge #2)

26 09 2010

There’s a downside to cooking a lot and experimenting with all types of international cooking: when Foodbuzz challenges you to make a classic dish from a cuisine with which you’re unfamiliar, the pickings can be slim.  French is out, for obvious reasons (e.g. I live there).  As is American (e.g. I am one).  Mexican, Chinese, and Indian all get a fair share of play on my table.  I have been known to cook Japanese, Russian, and Italian.  And I’ve cooked Bulgarian, English, Thai, North African, Vietnamese, and German, too.

I thought about cooking feijoada, the Portuguese/Brazilian bean and meat stew.  I even asked one of the Portuguese women at work for her recipe.  But somehow it wasn’t wacky enough.  (I mean, I’ve done pig’s ears and feet before.)  I asked my sister-in-law, who is Filipina, if she had any classic family recipes.  She sent me a very tasty-sounding recipe for chicken adobo.  The same day, Nick came home from work with a recipe from one of his colleagues.  A Frenchman who used to live in West Africa, notably Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, had given him a recipe for mafé, a type of groundnut stew.  It varies widely from country to country, but is popular throughout the region.  At its heart it is a basic braised chicken (or lamb, or beef, but never pork) dish, but the spicy tomato and peanut-based sauce combines familiar-to-me ingredients in a very unfamiliar way.  The recipe also came with specific instructions as to an appropriate beverage – jus de bissap, a chilled, sweetened tea made from hibiscus flowers.  I was seduced.


1. Athithane, 2. Sweet potatoes & Manioc, 3. Bissap bags, 4. “Produits Exotiques”

Living in France can have its disadvantages, too, especially when it comes to cooking something not French.  (The challenge is reduced somewhat if the country in question is a former colony of France, which Senegal was until 1960.)  Fortunately, I live in a very diverse neighborhood in Paris, and there are a handful of “exotic product” shops selling products from places as far apart as Africa, India, and China.  I found this tiny one on my way to the bank Saturday morning, and they had everything I was looking for: sweet potatoes, bissap (the aforementioned hibiscus flowers), and ginger.  I love poking around in the foreign food stores here, because I never know what I’m going to find.  In this case, I succeeded in keeping focused, so after picking up the necessities, and a quick stop at the butcher for a chicken, I headed home to get cooking.


1. Boning Knife, 2. Scissors, 3. Cleaver

Aside from being in French, all the recipes I found for mafé called for whole chickens, cut up.  In the spirit of authenticity, I channeled my inner butcher and cut the bird into ten pieces – two legs, two thighs, two wings, and two breasts, halved.  I saved the backbone to make stock at a later date.  The vegetable components in the recipes varied wildly, but onions, carrots and sweet potatoes featured in several, so I figured they would make a fairly classic stew.  Like any good French-trained cook, I got all my mise en place together before starting to cook.

Read the rest of this entry »





Housewarming Harissa Chicken and Rice

6 05 2010

Moving house always shakes up the routine.  Starting a few weeks before the move, Nick and I tried to concentrate on eating up what we had in the fridge and pantry, to reduce the amount of stuff that had to be packed as much as possible.  I stopped getting the CSA share for a few weeks, and moved into a kitchen where there was no oven (there is now), a half-size fridge (getting replaced with a big one on Saturday, normalement), and two (only two!!!) induction burners, which have taken some getting used to.

Of course the days surrounding the move were fueled mostly by quick meals, some (Restaurant Raviolis) better than others (Subway).  The morning after we moved, breakfast consisted of green tea and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  I’m telling you that because I think it’s hilarious, and because I think that anyone who’s ever moved a kitchen will understand.  For lunch that day we went to L’As du Fallafel, and dinner was at one of our new neighborhood’s sixty kajillion Indian places.  We had some very simple dinners the next couple of nights – tomato sauce with mushrooms over pasta, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup – but soon the urge to cook came back.

Easy, fresh, and spicy!

It was fueled in part by this recipe for Spicy Citrus Shrimp I saw on The Kitchen Illiterate.  It sounded so easy, quick, and simple, and I’m always looking for excuses to bust out the harissa.  Plus, blood oranges were the weekly special at one of the fruit-and-vegetable shops down the street.  But moving can leave one feeling poor, and shrimp just sounded too rich for my blood.  So chicken it was.  I made a marinade using harissa, blood orange and lemon juice, garlic (my addition), salt, and olive oil.  I made just enough to coat the chicken, plus a little extra for saucy goodness further down the road.  Got some rice going, and grabbed a quick shower while it cooked (oh, the busy lives of Parisian pastry chefs). 

When I came back, cleaned and ready to sauté, I learned something about my new stove: if I try to put two pans on it at once, a) they don’t both fit comfortably, and b) the stove starts pulsing instead of delivering even heat.  I also learned that despite the fact that the control panel goes to 12 (which, by the way, boils a pot of water in under 3 minutes), the maximum total capacity is 20.  That means that if I have one burner on 12, the other can only go up to 8.  Having learned all this in the space of about 30 seconds, I dumped the chicken, sauce and all, in a screaming hot nonstick pan (brand new, because my old one didn’t play well – or at all – with the induction top) and savored the sweet-spicy aromas that came forth.  I added the rice and some baby spinach, stirred it all up, and scooped it into shallow bowls.  Pine nuts and juicy segments of blood orange became garnish.  Nick and I sat down to dinner, accompanied by a glass of something robust and red from the Languedoc, and for the first time since moving, really felt like we were home.

On this day in 2008: An Oasis for Tea

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





A Hen By Any Other Name

9 01 2010

Sorry, I just read this, and now have Shakespeare on the brain.  (WARNING: do not click that link if you don’t have at least 30 minutes to appreciate its brilliance.  And come back here when you’re done.  Thanks.)  At any rate, this post owes much more to Martha Stewart than it does to good old Bill.  I received Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home for Christmas, and so far am loving the inspired seasonal menus and beautiful photography.  I especially love the simplicity of the recipes – I get caught up in the kitchen, occasionally, and it’s nice to have a reminder that sometimes all you have to do is paint a hen with hoisin sauce and let it roast.

White and yellow coquelets

The recipe for hoisin-glazed hens calls for a two pound Cornish game hen per person, which sounds like a lot to me.  Besides, the coquelets (in English: poussins, and in American: Rock Cornish hens) in the grocery store were only about a pound each.  They had both white and yellow ones, and not seeing a price difference, I picked up one of each in order to find out the difference.  Once home, I rubbed them with a mixture of chopped fresh ginger, chili peppers, garlic, and salt.  I stuffed a few branches of cilantro into each cavity, and let the little guys rest for about 20 minutes while I preheated the oven and made the sauce for dessert.  Right before I put them in the oven, I used one of my new pastry brushes (thank you, Mr. Bricolage) to cover the birds with a thin layer of hoisin sauce.  Painting the stuff on was totally fun – one of those kitchen moments where I really wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.  While the hens roasted, I got some rice going on the stove, then painted another layer of sauce on the already gloriously browned hens.  Less than half an hour later, dinner was ready!

A quick, Asian-inspired dinner

I served the juicy, flavorful hens with some homemade sorta-kimchee’d radishes and carrots.  (Really, they were just pickled, with a little Thai fried chili paste mixed into the brine.  None of that complicated fermentation stuff.)  Nick and I switched hens halfway through the meal, to judge the merits of the two colors of hen.  The consensus was that the white one was better for this purpose, i.e. roasting, while the yellow one might shine more in some kind of stewed or slow-cooked application (barbecue, anyone?).

For dessert, I took Martha’s suggestion to simply slice some kiwis and drizzle them with a jasmine tea syrup.  I had to add some ginger to the simmering water, though, as I’m an incurable recipe-tinkerer.  It made a delicious, light finish to the meal.  I have some leftover syrup, and this time inspired by another Christmas gift, David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop, I’m planning on using it to make a kiwi-jasmine granita.  No ice cream maker required!  If I had one, though, and I may, soon, if the gods of the Soldes see fit to smile on my quest, I might whip up a sorbet instead.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Chicken Pot Pie – Another Classic French Dish

6 08 2008

I know – not very summery.  But tasty and comforting just the same.  And, while it may not seem particularly French, the humble pot pie is based on some very classic French techniques.  First, the sauce.  It’s a traditional velouté, made by thinning blond roux with stock.  Stir, simmer, season, strain if you’re fussy.

Sauce velouté - known in many parts of the world as "gravy."

Next, you’ve got your mirepoix:  Sauté in a little butter, season with salt and pepper, toss with fresh parsley (or thyme or sage).

Classic mirepoix - onions, carrots, and celery

Read the rest of this entry »





We Found Buttermilk!

7 07 2008

I can’t believe that there has been buttermilk right under my nose the whole time I’ve been in Paris.  I’ve walked right past it countless times, not even considering that it might be just the thing I’ve been looking for.  You see, it is usually labeled in Arabic, with small French writing that explains, “lait fermenté.”  Then Nick and I were in the store the other day, and he exclaimed, “Is that buttermilk?  Lait fermenté?”  I smacked my forehead.  Of course.  It’s been there the whole time, staring me right in the face, and I missed it!

So what was my first thought upon finding this previously unavailable (or so I thought) ingredient?  Fried chicken.  I don’t know why.  I can’t say we were in the habit of making fried chicken back home in the States, or even if I’ve ever attempted it.  It’s also not something I crave in particular.  Sure I’ll read something about fried chicken every now and then, and I’ll get hungry thinking about the crunchy breading, but then I think about the mess involved in eating pieces of bone-in fried chicken, and the sad fact is that most of the time it just isn’t worth it.  You get grease all over your hands and face and it’s so heavy that you end up feeling like you’ve swallowed a rock.  Most of the fried chicken meals I’ve had in my life have consisted of one piece of chicken (invariably dry, yet somehow with flabby skin) and then I fill up on sides: mashed potatoes and coleslaw being my favorites.  Biscuits, too, if they’re around.

But I guess I have been reading up on fried chicken recipes lately, and the Cook’s Illustrated one (in which I had absolute faith) insists on marinating the chicken in seasoned buttermilk before battering and frying.  It sounded so good that it stuck in my mind, hidden away until the moment I saw buttermilk, at which point it popped out and started bouncing around again.  So fried chicken it was.

Since I know almost nothing about making fried chicken, I followed Cook’s recipe to the letter.  It came out fantastically.  The batter was dark brown and satisfyingly crunchy, yet almost light in texture with no unpleasant greasiness.  The chicken underneath was juicy and beautifully seasoned.  I honestly can’t say I’ve ever had better.

Move over, Colonel!  Sorry, Popeye!  French chickens rule!

As you can see, we served it with potato salad (left over from our 4th of July feast – which I’ll be posting on later, I was just so psyched about the chicken I had to write it up immediately) and a batch of our favorite buttermilk coleslaw (also courtesy Cook’s Illustrated).

Ah, Americana in Paris…





Chicken Chili Verde, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Lard

11 06 2008

We are getting pretty good at making Mexican food with French ingredients, if I do say so myself.  Having recently come into a glut of cheap chicken leg quarters, Nick decided to try his hand at some chicken chili verde.  Yet another braise.  It’s amazing how many different cuisines use this technique – but then who doesn’t love something you can put on the stove and forget about for a couple of hours?

Mise en place for chili verde
Nick found some gorgeous green chilis at the market, and chopped them up along with some onion and garlic.  After the chicken had been browned, into the Dutch oven they went.

You can almost SEE how good this smells!

You should know the drill by now.  Liquid, skinned chicken, simmer, yada yada.  What Nick did that was special, was that once the chicken was good and tender, he shredded it off the bones, returned it to the pot, and continued to cook it until the pot was almost dry.  This really concentrates the flavors and gives the meat a texture that is absolutely out of this world.  Unctuous, even.  Here it is about halfway done:

Read the rest of this entry »





Another Braised Chicken Dish

5 06 2008

Those who know me know I love a good hearty braise.  I have written about braising on this blog on at least five separate occasions.  It is one of those fundamental cooking techniques wherein you take something cheap and make it taste like a million bucks.  I like to think that I have mastered it to the point where I can mess around with it and know that I’m still going to get good results.  Plus, there are almost always leftovers.  Never a bad thing, in my book.

At the market on Sunday (a glorious sunny morning) I bought some girolles with no set plan for them.  As we wandered along, discussing what we had in the fridge at home (tarragon), and what to buy to complement those things, Nick came up with something that sounded delicious: braised chicken with tarragon and girolles.  I thought that I could work in the fennel bulb I knew was lurking in the bottom of the vegetable drawer, and agreed to the dish, despite the not-at-all-braise-worthy weather.  Since it was so nice out, we decided to put that one off and bought some excellent Norwegian salmon for dinner that night.

Later that afternoon, the sky clouded over and rain began to fall.  Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go to a butcher on Monday, Nick and I went up the street to a butcher shop we had never visited before.  The chickens roasting in the rotisserie outside were some of the best I’ve seen, so we went in to get some cuisses de poulet.  Literally “chicken thighs,” these are inevitably whole chicken leg quarters.  Not a problem, just a bit unwieldy.  At 2 euros a kilo, though, who’s complaining?

So Monday night, which was just as dismal as Sunday afternoon, I began my Spring-y chicken braise.  First step: brown the skin.

Chicken leg quarters, snug and cozy in the Dutch oven

Next step: get the meat out of there to make room for the vegetables.  In this case, diced fennel and onion.  Season with salt and pepper.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to pick up all the deliciousness residing there.  While the vegetables cook, remove the skin from the chicken.  (This is much easier when you’re just working with thighs.)  It occurred to me at this point that a bit of Dijon mustard would go really well with everything else in the dish, so I plopped in a spoonful of mustard and stirred to make sure it wasn’t going t be in one big lump.  And then it’s time to add the liquid.  I have run out of chicken stock, so I used half water and half white wine, and another good pinch of salt.  Nestle the meat in with the vegetables and liquid, and bring the whole thing up to a simmer.

Tarragon Chicken Braise - before

I also stuffed a couple sprigs of fresh tarragon in there – let’s not forget the inspiration for the dish.  Once it’s simmering, reduce the heat (for me, this means moving the pot to a completely different burner, but that’s my quirky stove), slap the lid on the pot, and leave it alone for an hour and a half or so.  (Longer if you’re braising beef or lamb – yes, it does require a little planning ahead.)

Meanwhile, for this particular braise, I began preparing the mushrooms.  You didn’t forget about those, did you?  Maybe a picture will help:

Read the rest of this entry »





How to Roast a Chicken (alternate version)

28 05 2008

Yes, roasting a chicken is very easy.  But do you know what’s even easier?  Buying a fresh rotisserie chicken hot from the oven.  And some potatoes from the bottom of the rotisserie, where they’ve been soaking up chickeny goodness most of the day.

The ubiquitous parisian rotisserie

This picture was taken at the butcher that is closest to my apartment, but almost every butcher in town has one of these outside his shop.  I do not recommend walking down the street hungry in Paris, as you will be assaulted at least every 3 minutes with the delicious aroma of roasting chickens.  I believe I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating:  the chickens here in France are just plain tastier than their American brethren.  Chalk it up to farming practices or whatever, all I know is that I won’t touch a pre-roasted chicken in the States, and here I eat them at least twice a month.  (Apologies to my American readers.)

Note the price (if you can decipher that crazy French handwriting, that is): 5 euros.  The sign says 2 euros for potatoes, but sometimes they’ll just throw a handful into the bag with the chicken for free.  Throw together a salad and you’ve got dinner for 2-3 people in no time, for pocket change.

Vive la France!








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 306 other followers

%d bloggers like this: