Sugarplums

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The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…

I would love to have visions of dancing sugar-plums in my head, but I don’t know what they look like! And of course, there’s really no such thing, from a fruit standpoint. Ages ago I came across a recipe for Sugarplums on the Food Network website, and I was intrigued.

Turns out there have been candies/confections called Sugarplums around for a long time, and they’re all similar to this recipe, with nuts and dried fruits, rolled into balls.

So there’s no real sugar plum, but nonetheless this recipe was something I knew I had to make!

Best of all, I had 7-year old help with these!

Sugarplums

6 ounces Brazilnuts
6 ounces dried plums
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs, stemmed
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sieved
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/4 cup honey
Swedish pearl sugar

Weigh out the Brazilnuts and all of the dried fruit, then place it all in the jar of a food processor. Pulse until on the coarse side, but not too coarse. You need all of it to stick together.

Place the mixture in a bowl and add the powdered sugar with the poppy seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, anise seeds, and fennel seeds. Give it all a stir and set aside.

When you are ready to finish the Sugarplums, have the nut-fruit mixture and two latex gloves handy. Place the Swedish pearl sugar in a small bowl. Also have a rack handy on which to place the Sugarplums. Put on the gloves and begin mixing everything together. Roll the sticky mixture into balls and dip in the sugar. Then place on the rack.

Continue with the remaining fruit and nut mixture. This recipe made about 20 Sugarplums, until everyone starts sampling them.

These are really sweet. I don’t think there’s any getting around it, because you need the dried fruits, the powdered sugar, and the stickiness of the honey. Definitely make these for your favorite sweets lover!

Chicken Biryani

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When I first made biryani a million years ago, or so it seems, it was a fun dish for me because it was a perfect vehicle for leftovers – leftover rice, leftover chicken, even a leftover curry. But one can also make it purposefully from scratch, creating a custom version of what you like.

Biryani is an Indian dish, with many variations, which is perfect for the way I like to cook. It’s basically rice and meat, and you can sprinkle the dish with cilantro or green onions, serve with sour cream. It’s fun and flavorful and filling.

I’m not using an actual recipe, simply so I can show you how to make it from scratch and how easy and straight forward biryani is. I’m using the basic Indian-inspired seasonings, basmati rice, and prepared chicken.

After I’d created the seasonings for this biryani, I discovered an actual biryani seasoning mixture that I bought a few years ago. I need to go through my spice drawers!

Chicken Biryani
Printable recipe below

3 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 – 1” piece of ginger, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups basmati rice, I’m using brown
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or to taste
Approximately 3 1/2 cups of good chicken broth
4 grilled chicken breasts
2 tablespoons ghee
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
1 green bell pepper, cut into slices
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Melt the ghee in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, give it a stir, then pour in the rice followed by the spices.

Add the broth and give everything a stir. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 30 minutes. Brown rice takes a bit longer so test it. If your rice is done and there’s still some broth, give it a stir, keep the lid on, and give it about 10 minutes; the rice will absorb the liquid. Set aside and keep warm.

Cut up the cooked chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I put sweet paprika on mine before cooking, which is why they’re red; paprika is not an Indian spice. Set the chicken aside.

In a skillet, heat the ghee over medium-high heat, and sauté the pepper slices for about 5 minutes, getting some good caramelization on them, turning once. You might have to do this in two batches. Set the slices on a plate.

Add the chicken pieces, turn off the heat, put on a lid, and let the chicken heat through.

Peel the hard-boiled eggs and slice in half; make sure they’re at room temperature.

To serve, place the aromatic rice on a serving platter, then cover with the peppers and chicken. If you prefer, you can mix the chicken with the rice instead.

Decorate the biryani with the egg halves, and sprinkle the dish with cilantro.

If you don’t want to grill chicken breasts, pick apart a rotisserie chicken and coarsely chop the meat.

If you want to use less chicken, include a can of drained chick peas to the rice.

Now you can see how you can come up with your own recipe for biryani. It’s fun and easy!

 

 

Holiday Toddy

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I happen to be in love with Christmas. I love the smells, sounds, the foods of Christmas… Christmas movies. I love it all.

I’m actually listening to Christmas carols as I type this post, and I was listening to Christmas carols when I whipped up this toddy. I start listening on the first cold day or, the 1st of October, whichever occurs first.

About this time of year I also have a well-stocked liquor cabinet, so I can create a holiday-inspired cocktail with pomegranate vodka, eggnog liqueur, peppermint schnapps – whatever I fancy. I am very lucky this way.

Today it’s chilly, and I was in the mood for a toddy, which, in my book, implies a hot drink. Like a hot buttered rum would be a hot toddy to me.

I had an idea inspired by a recipe I once saw, using tea as the toddy base. I happened to have chai tea bags on hand, so I used them.

I’m using a relatively new liquor that I love, Brown Sugar Bourbon, and I’m not a bourbon lover!

Holiday Toddy
Printable recipe below

8 Chai tea bags
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
7-8 ounces sweetened evaporated milk
8 ounces brown sugar bourbon, or spiced rum, like Captain Morgan
Cinnamon sticks

Place the tea bags, cardamom, and allspice in a heat-proof container; I used a 4-cup measuring cup. Add about 2 cups of boiling hot water and let the tea bags steep for at least 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags.

Add more hot water until it measures 3 cups. Transfer the tea into a stove-top pot with a pour spout, and add the cardamom and allspice. Place on the stove over low heat. Add the sweetened condensed milk and bourbon and whisk until they’re completely combined.

Heat the toddy till it’s steaming, then serve with a cinnamon stick.

Any Christmas-type tea will work, even an orange tea. And, you could always serve the toddy with a little orange peel twirl.

This recipe makes about 6 good-sized cups. It can easily be doubled, or tripled…..

And if you’re wondering who designed these delightful festive cups, it’s Tracy Porter, who unfortunately doesn’t design dinnerware any longer.

Yewollo Ambasha

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If you decide to make this traditional Ethiopian bread, your life will be changed forever. I can guarantee you that. It is fragrant, delicious, and perfect for Ethiopian stews, or wats. I just like saying the name – yewollo ambasha!

My first experience with Ethiopian cuisine was when I still lived at home. My mother owned the Time-Life set of cookbooks called “Foods of the World,” and she tore through them like it was nobody’s business! Every week we’d be served food from a different country, whether we liked it or not! (My only bad experience was with Chinese fried tiger lilies.)

The set consisted of spiral-bound, small recipe booklets, and a larger companion book with photos, history, and stories. This is the cover of the African cookbook.

Being the geek that I was, I loved to look at the photo-filled book. I was enamored with the different-looking people, the colors of their food, and various cooking equipment.

I’ve mentioned that I began cooking seriously in 1982, when I got married. My husband was limited, shall we say, in his experience with food growing up – quite the opposite of me. However, I didn’t really know this, so I cooked through cuisines naively and we ate. More importantly, he ate.

As a girl, I never dreamed of my wedding, but I did dream of eventually having Thanksgiving turkey, something my mother refused to make…. something about French people not liking turkey. (Enter eye rolling.)

The first year my husband and I were married, I got my wish! A full-on turkey with all the fixins. The second year? My husband asked for Ethiopian food. Yes, I created a food monster!

I don’t remember what all I made, but I know this bread was a part of the menu.

Yewollo Ambasha
Spice Bread
Makes 1 – 12” round loaf

1 package plus 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
10 tablespoons niter kebbeh, melted over low heat, divided
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, pulverized
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon berberé

In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 of the lukewarm water. Let the mixture stand for 2 – 3 minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast completely. By habit, I always add a little sugar on top of the yeast.

Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles up and the mixture almost doubles in volume. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, 8 tablespoons of the niter kebbeh, the coriander, cardamom, fenugreek, white pepper and salt, and stir with a whisk or spoon until all the ingredients are well blended.

Stir in the flour 1/2 cup at a time, using only as much as necessary to make a dough that can be gathered into a soft ball. Also by habit, I always start with a slurry, using only a small amount of flour, and let that rise first, then proceed.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough. Sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour if it sticks to the board. Repeat for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth but still soft.

Tear off a small piece of dough, roll it into a ball about 1/2” in diameter and set aside. Place the remaining dough on a large untreated baking sheet and pat and shape it into a flattened round about 10” in diameter. To decorate the loaf in the traditional manner, make the impression of a cross on top of the loaf by cutting down 1/2” with a long, sharp knife into the dough, “dividing” it into equal quarters. Then with the point of the knife, cut 1/2” wide slits about 1/2” deep and 1/2” apart crosswise along both cuts of the cross so that the cross looks like the map symbol of railroad tracks. Holding the tip of the blade steady at the center of the cross, make shallow cuts at 1/4” intervals all around the loaf to create a sunburst or wheel design on the top. I did the best I could. Flatten the ball of dough and press it firmly into the center of the loaf.

Set the loaf aside in a warm, draft-free spot for an hour; it should double in bulk. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread in the middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes, until it is crusty and a delicate golden brown.

Slide the loaf onto a wire cake rack. While the bread is still warm, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of niter kebbeh and the berberé and brush the mixture evenly over the top.

Yewollo ambasha may be served while it is still warm, or may be allowed to cool completely.

It’s so pretty I almost hate cutting into it, but the fragrance is so lovely that it’s never stopped me!

Berberé

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Before one can make any traditional dishes of Ethiopia, it is necessary to make the wonderfully complex spice paste called berberé. It is paprika based, but also contains onion, garlic, and many wonderful spices that add to the complexity of this unique seasoning mixture. These include cayenne, ginger, coriander, cloves, fenugreek, cardamom, and more.

The recipe I use is from the Time-Life series called Foods of the World.

It doesn’t take much time at all to make berberé, and the toasting spices will make your whole house smell wonderful.

Once you have this spice paste, as well as the other unique seasoned butter called niter kebbeh, you will be able to make a number of authentic Ethiopian dishes.

Berberé
Red Pepper and Spice Paste
Makes about 2 cups

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons dry red wine
2 cups paprika
2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups water
1 – 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a heavy skillet, toast the ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice over low heat for a minute, stirring constantly.

Then remove the skillet from the heat and let the spices cool for 5-10 minutes.

Combine the toasted spices, onions, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt and the wine in the jar of an electric blender and blend at high speed until the mixture is a smooth paste.

Combine the paprika, cayenne, black pepper and the remaining tablespoon of salt in the saucepan and toast them over low heat for a minute, until they are heated through, stirring the spices constantly.

Stir in the water, 1/4 cup at a time, then add the spice and wine mixture. I used some of the water get get more of the wine mixture from the blender jar.

Stirring vigorously, cook over the lowest possible heat for 10 – 15 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the Berberé to a jar or crock, and pack it in tightly.

Let the paste cool to room temperature, then dribble enough oil over the top to make a film at least 1/4″ thick.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. If you replenish the film of oil on top each time you use the Berberé, it can safely be kept in the refrigerator for 5-6 months.

Now, you can buy powdered berberé, like I did when I visited Kalustyan’s in New York City, but you can see I’ve never opened it. I’d much rather make the paste from scratch.

Niter Kebbeh

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Niter Kebbeh is a spice-infused butter. Along with berberé, niter kebbeh is an essential element of cooking Ethiopian cuisine. The recipe I use, and have for years, is from the Time-Life series called Foods of the World.

I made this spiced butter after the lockdown in March. It’s typically made with butter, then clarified. I used 24 ounces of ghee, which is clarified butter, instead of 32 ounces of butter. The process was easier because the solids didn’t have to be removed. Following is the original recipe.

Niter Kebbeh
Spiced Butter Oil
Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
4 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cardamom pod, slightly crushed with the flat of a knife, or a pinch of cardamom seeds
1 piece of stick cinnamon, 1 inch long
1 whole clove
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

In a heavy 4- to 5-quart saucepan, heat the butter over moderate heat, turning it about with a spoon to melt it slowly and completely without letting it brown. Then increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is completely covered with white foam, stir in the remaining ingredients.

Reduce the heat to the lowest possible point and simmer uncovered and undisturbed for 45 minutes, or until the milk solids on the bottom of the pan are a golden brown and the butter on top is transparent.

Slowly pour the clear liquid into a bowl, straining it through a fine sieve lined with a linen towel or cheesecloth. Discard the seasonings.

If there are any solids left in the butter, strain it again to prevent it from becoming rancid later.

Pour the kebbeh into a jar, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. It will solidify when chilled.

It can safely be kept, even at room temperature, for 2 or 3 months, but I keep mine refrigerated.

Schug

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I’m so excited! I’ve discovered a new condiment called Schug, and my husband even loves it!

It originates from Yemenite cuisine, but has spread in popularity throughout the Middle East, from what I’ve read. It’s typically used over falafel or shawarma, but it can be used on fish, eggs, and just about any meat.

So what is schug? It’s a really bright green mixture of jalapeño peppers, cilantro, parsley, and olive oil. I’ve seen recipes with cumin; some also list cardamom, and some list coriander. I’m using both. If you want to read more about schug this is a good article here.

Schug

8-10 jalapeño peppers
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
10 small cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of ground white pepper
1/4 olive oil

First remove the stems of the jalapeños. Holding them vertically with a latex-gloved hand, slice the flesh of the jalapeños downward, avoiding the inner seeds. This technique works well with all kinds of peppers if you want to avoid seeds as well as the membrane.

Place the jalapeño slices, the cilantro, parsley, garlic, and all of the spices in a food processor.

Add the olive oil and process with the pulse button. Add a little more olive oil if necessary. Leave some texture in the sauce.

Place the mixture in jars; it can be frozen.

When you’re about to use it, it can be thinned with a little more olive oil first.

What I’m doing with the schug today is drizzling it on a salad of tomatoes, beets, and fresh mozzarella.

Tomato, Beet and Mozzarella Salad with Schug
Serves 2-4

3 medium-sized tomatoes, sliced
Equal number of beet slices, from a jar, drained well
Equal number of fresh mozzarella slices
Schug, thinned with some olive oil

Layer the tomato, beet, and mozzarella slices on a serving plate.

Generously drizzle the salad with schug.

Sprinkle the salad generously with flaked salt.

I can also see the sauce mixed with mayo or sour cream, or even a bechamel to create creamy schug!

Chicken Shawarma

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After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this lucious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!

Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.

To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.

You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.

Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.

Pickled Shrimp

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Would you ever think to name a restaurant based on your childhood nickname? Well Gabrielle “Prune” Hamilton did exactly that. She is chef-owner of Prune, the restaurant, which has been successful since its opening in 1999. The cookbook, Prune, was published in 2014.

I enjoyed reading the recipes in Prune; they all seem unique in some way. But one recipe that grabbed my attention, was pickled shrimp. This was definitely a new one for me.

When I serve a shrimp appetizer, I typically serve it marinated in a garlic-infused olive oil, an oil blended with herbs, or both!

Ms. Hamilton’s recipe has you cooking the raw shrimp in a spice and herb boil, followed by a 24-hour pickling. I just had to make it.

Pickled shrimp
Printable recipe below

2 pounds shrimp in shell

Boil
10 bay leaves
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 piece cinnamon stick
1 cup kosher salt
6 branches fresh thyme
1 unpeeled head of garlic
8 cups cold water

Pickle
1 cup paper-thin sliced lemons
1 cup paper-thin sliced red onion
1 cup thin-slivered garlic
1 cup inner celery leaves
3 tablespoons celery seeds
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
12 fresh bay leaves
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 cups rice wine vinegar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt, Pepper

Peel the shrimp, devein, and leave the tails on. Oops, I forgot to leave the tails on.

Combine the boil ingredients in a large stockpot with cold water and bring to a boil.

Add the shrimp and cook for just a minute or two until the flesh turns pink. You can pull one out and test if it’s finished before you pull out the whole batch.

Remove the shrimp with a spider. Ice down the shrimp to get them to stop cooking, but don’t let them soak in the melted ice after they are cooled or you will waterlog them and undo all that nice seasoning.

Combine all the pickle ingredients, rub the fresh bay leaves between your hands to open them up a bit, toss with the cooled shrimp, and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. (I only had dried bay leaves.)

Let recover to almost room temperature before serving. To plate, place 4-5 shrimp and a little of all of the goodies, in a neat jumble, in a small, shallow bowl.

Note: The shrimp will continue to “cook” in the pickle marinade, so take care in the initial blanch to keep them rare; we don’t want to end up with mealy, over cooked shrimp after the pickling.


These shrimp were so good that you can almost see the number of shrimp dwindling as I photographed them!

These shrimp require some time and also a lot of good ingredients, so I recommend making 6-8 pounds of pickled shrimp. Then it’s definitely worth the effort and expense.

Gabrielle’s first book, Blood, Bones, and Butter, was published before her cookbook, in 2012.

It’s an award-winning memoir – the story of Gabrielle’s upbringing, her entrée into the culinary profession, and her reluctance to embrace her hard-earned skills and success in the kitchen. I could not put the book down once I started reading.

 

 

Cast-Iron Grilled Chicken

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Anthony Bourdain’s Cast-Iron Chicken

The name of this recipe isn’t terribly exciting, or unique for that matter, but when you find out where I got this recipe, I think you’ll be intrigued.

The book is Anthony Bourdain’s “Appetites: A Cookbook,” published in October of 2016.

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a fan for a long time, originally because of his non-fiction book about the restaurant business, called “Kitchen Confidential.” “Medium Raw” was also terribly enjoyable.

His first cookbook was the “Les Halles Cookbook,” from the famed NYC restaurant where Mr. Bourdain was the chef.

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And then there are also his television shows that continue to take us with him around the world, from crazy-busy food markets or remote deserts. We’ve witnessed him drunk, hungover, chain smoking, but mostly, enjoying every strange bit of food and drink offered to him. That’s the Anthony Bourdain I think most people know and love.

He’s opinionated, maniacal, and open to adventure. I’m not sure his tv fans were aware he was an actual chef when he became popular on tv.

There have been many different shows over the years, although they have the same theme. Some of my favorite episodes are when his good friend, Eric Ripert, goes along. Talk about two opposite ends of the spectrum! I would so love to hang out with the two of them. It makes me giggle just to think of them together.

And speaking of Eric Ripert, his pretty French face is featured in Appetites amongst the interesting array of photographs. There’s one photo where I’m not sure if he’s about to laugh or cry. He’s definitely a good sport.

So what’s Appetites about? It’s about what Anthony Bourdain loves – what he likes to cook for himself, for his family, for his friends. Although I did spot a few hard-to-come-by ingredients like truffles, the food in this cookbook is not frilly and fancy. I guess the premise is, even though you’re a chef, at home you’re a home cook, doing home cooking.

So why did I pick this cast-iron grilled chicken recipe as the first to try from Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook? Well, the reason behind it is that in NYC, according to Mr. Bourdain, “outdoor grills and the space to operate them safely, are tough to come by… but anyone can use a cast-iron grill pan to get real char on their food.”

I don’t have limitations with outside grilling space, but for much of the summer it’s just too darn hot to stand outside and watch meat cook. Even with cold beer.

So for this yogurt-marinated chicken recipe, the chicken is seared on the stove, and finished in the oven, just like one would do with really thick steaks. I’ve never thought to “finish” chicken in the oven!

Mr. Bourdain doesn’t give any insight into the yogurt marinade, which is disappointing, because it’s sort of Indian, but not really.

Here’s the recipe.

Cast-Iron Grilled Chicken

1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
15 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1-2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
Salt to taste
Hot sauce, optional

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, cumin, cardamom, oregano, and pepper.

Place the chicken in a plastic zip-seal bad and pour the yogurt mixture over, making sure each piece of chicken is evenly coated on all sides. Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Rub a grill pan with 1-2 tablespoons of oil, depending on its size. This is the grill pan I used. It has nice sharp edges, even though most of the time I don’t get the char stripes. It’s a Le Creuset.

Begin to heat the grill pan over high heat; you’ll know it’s ready to go when you can see waves of heat shimmering off it. This would be a good time to turn on your kitchen vent and turn any other fans on.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season it liberally with salt.

Place on the hot grill pan and let cook, undisturbed, for 6 to 7 minutes, so that is is distinctly grill marked.

Using tongs, turn the chicken to cook on the other side for about 5 minutes.

As you can tell, there are no char stripes. However, I did forget to remove the skin on the thighs.

I “grilled” the thighs in two batches. Transfer the chicken, still on the grill pan, to the hot oven to finish cooking for about 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be 150 degrees F at the thickest part.

Remove from the oven, let rest for a few minutes, then serve, sliced or whole, with hot sauce if desired. The flavor of the chicken is fantastic. The cardamom, cumin, and oregano really worked together.

So in the future I think I’ll stick with my cast-iron skillet, and not worry about grill marks.

The whole concept of charring/searing the chicken on the stove, then finishing it in the oven is brilliant. And it worked beautifully. I will certainly be using this technique in the future.

Oh, and adding hot sauce? Brilliant!!!