Chicken with Fermented Black Beans

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In the post Growing up Foodie, I write about how my mother became extremely enamored and proficient with Chinese cuisine, thanks to meeting a Chinese cook, author, and shop owner in Seattle, Washington, namely Mrs. Esther Chin. This is her cookbook from the 60’s.

Quickly, with cooking lessons in exchange for sea cucumbers my mother collected scuba diving in the Puget Sound, my Mom learned and cooked and our house smelled like an Asian grocery store. There were cleavers and steamers and sieves and woks and chopsticks and porcelain spoons. She never sat with us to eat because she was always cooking everything at the last minute. You just heard a lot of clanging and banging, and endless French swear words.

And then lo and behold, a myriad of dishes would appear on the table – winter melon soup, dumplings, shrimp balls, steamed duck, five willow fish, salads, and an occasional stir fry. And, surprisingly, I loved chicken cooked with fermented bean sauce.

My mother recently gave me Mrs. Chin’s cookbook she had treasured for so many years, and there was the recipe. There are also recipes for bird’s nests and shark’s fins…

Chicken  with  Black  Bean  Sauce
Mrs. Chin

2 pounds trimmed chicken thighs
2 tablespoons cornstarch, or more if necessary
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup fermented black beans
6 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 large green pepper, chopped
1/2 pound cauliflower florets
1 cup stock
1 tablespoon sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with the cornstarch. I use a sieve for the cornstarch, but forgot the photo.

Pound garlic and black beans together and cook with 1/4 cup of stock in a small pot until the beans are soft. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the green pepper and cauliflower florets for a few minutes. Add 1/4 cup stock, cover, and simmer for about 2 minutes.
Remove and set aside.

Add another 3 tablespoons of oil and fry the chicken pieces for a couple of minutes. Add 1/4 cup stock and cook until all the pieces turn white. Place in a separate bowl and set aside.

Fry the black bean sauce with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil for one minute. Add the chicken and 1/4 cup stock. Cover and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add the vegetables, sherry, and salt.

Mix well.

Heat through and serve with rice.

I also like to serve extra fermented beans, because they’re so good!

Chicken Pizzaiola

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I never realized Lidia Bastianich had a website, until I randomly came across her recipe online for Chicken Pizzaiola. The name certainly caught my attention! I mean, who doesn’t love pizza ingredients!

The website is Lidia’s Italy, which highlights her restaurants, her books, her cooking shows (she even has a YouTube channel), plus recipes, and much much more. Her latest cookbook is Felidia, which came out in October of 2021.

Of this recipe, she says, “This dish has quickly become one of our most popular at lunch. The chicken is so tender that you don’t need a knife to cut it. And the pizzaiola preparation is a favorite traditional of Italian American cuisine.”

The lunch she’s referring to is at Felidia, her flagship restaurant she opened in 1981 on Manhattan’s east side, although it now closed permanently.

Chicken  Pizzaiola

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated grana padano
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian, on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus 1/4 cup leaves, and whole sprigs for garnish
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups prepared fresh tomato sauce
4 slices low-moisture mozzarella

Season the chicken breasts with salt, and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the buttermilk, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Drain the chicken, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss together the panko, grated Grana Padano, dried oregano, chopped parsley, chopped basil, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to incorporate everything fully into the crumbs.

Put the drained chicken breasts in the bowl with the seasoned breadcrumbs one at a time, and pat well on both sides so the crumbs cover the chicken on all sides. Set the breaded chicken breasts on the parchment paper, arranged so they don’t touch each other.

Bake the chicken until the coating is crisp and browned and the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes.

While the chicken bakes, combine the tomato sauce, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ¼ cup basil leaves in a blender, and purée until smooth. Season with salt.

Pour the purée into a small saucepan, and warm it over low heat.

When the chicken is just cooked through, top with the sliced mozzarella and bake until the cheese is just melted, about 2 minutes.

Spread the tomato emulsion on plates, top with the chicken, and serve.

I served this chicken with simply sautéed spinach.

Maybe it’s not like eating pizza, but wow this chicken dish really is fabulous. I would use grated mozzarella instead of a slice. I don’t like the look of that.

The crust is wonderful, and the cheeses make it so tasty, along with the herbs, and of course with the sauce…. divine.

Lemon Pappardelle with Nduja

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Up until now, I’ve only used nduja on charcuterie platters – the wonderful spread that is so good on warm bread. That is, until I saw this recipe online.

If you aren’t familiar with nduja, it’s a spreadable pork sausage from southern Italy, spiced with Calabrian chile peppers. Nduja can be made from scratch, and maybe some day I will, but it’s so easy just to buy a tube. How to pronounce? In-doo-ya.

I have seen nduja included in red sauces, but in this recipe the nduja flavor is right there, not masked by anything else.

The recipe that got my attention is from Delicious Magazine – a really posh British cooking magazine that is also online. The actual name of the recipe is Sicilian pappardelle with nduja and crunchy breadcrumbs. In it, Sicilian lemons are recommended, but alas, there none to be found in Oklahoma. However, I did use Castelvetrano olives in this pasta, to make it a bit more Sicilian!

I wanted to include broccolini in this pasta for something green, but there wasn’t any at my local store. Frozen peas would work, or asparagus in the spring.

Sicilian Lemon Pappardelle with Nduja and Crunchy Breadcrumbs
Slightly adapted

30g/1 ounce unsalted butter
4 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Zest and juice of 3 lemons, plus wedges to serve
50g/2 ounces nduja, crumbled
Bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying
50g/2 ounces fresh white breadcrumbs
400g fresh papardelle (I used dried)
1/3 cup heavy cream
40g/2 ounces Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
Castelvetrano olives, pitted, sliced lengthwise (optional)

Heat the butter in a large pan over a low heat and fry the shallots for 15 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, then cook for a minute.

Add the nduja and half the parsley, then fry for 1-2 minutes.

In a small frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil, add the breadcrumbs and fry over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until crisp. Set aside.

Cook the pappardelle according to package directions. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water, then add the pasta to the nduja mixture. Set over a medium heat, then toss with a splash of the pasta water, cream, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the Parmesan.

Season to taste and divide among bowls or place in large serving bowl. Add the olives, if using, then sprinkle with the crunchy breadcrumbs and remaining parsley.

Serve with lemon wedges and extra Parmesan.

I also served the pasta with the Calabrian peppers for some extra heat!

note: Not all of my grams to ounces calibrations are correct. The ounces are what I actually used.

BBQ and Blue Chicken Salad

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When I visit my daughter and her sweet family, about 1 1/2 hours away, I often stay with her to help with the kiddos. Plus, after their bedtime, we drink some wine and catch up. If I’m in the mood to cook, I do so, but there is a fabulous food delivery service called Postmates that services a whole range of great restaurants in Oklahoma City.

One restaurant we often order lunch from is Red Rock Canyon Grill. I’d call it an American grill – nothing fancy, but definitely quality food that’s consistently a pleasure to eat.

Normally, as is my way, I rarely order the same thing, with this restaurant’s menu being one exception. They have a rotisserie chicken salad there that is so good, that it’s always what I order via Postmates. Rotisserie Chicken Chop Salad.

It doesn’t look terribly appealing in the to-go container but it is delicious. What’s unique to me are the combination of dressings: actual barbecue sauce as well as a chipotle-blue cheese.

What really surprised me when I went to the restaurant’s website to make sure I got the name of the salad correct, is that this restaurant is a chain! There are Red Rocks from Texas to Kansas! Well, if all chains were as good as this one, America would be a better place to dine!

For this salad, I used my favorite bottled barbecue sauce. If I’m not making my own, I’m buying this brand.

Following is not a recipe, but a list of ingredients for this delicious salad. Make one serving or a huge salad. You’ll love it!

Southwestern Rotisserie Chicken Salad with BBQ Sauce and Chipotle-Bleu Cheese Dressing

Rotisserie or roast chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Romaine
Black beans, drained from can
Corn, fresh or drained from a can
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Cubes of avocado
Jicama, peeled, cubed
Hard-boiled eggs (optional)
Tortilla chips
BBQ sauce
Chipotle-bleu cheese dressing, recipe below

Chipotle-Bleu Cheese Dressing

4 ounces good blue cheese
4 ounces buttermilk
3 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 whole chipotle plus
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove

Place all ingredients in a small blender jar and blend until smooth. Alternately, use only half of the cheese in the dressing, and save the remaining crumbled cheese for the salad.

Begin by preparing all of the ingredients. I roasted a chicken and chopped up mostly the white meat.

Then add lettuce to the salad bowl, then cover with the black beans and corn.

Then add the tomatoes, jicama, and avocado. I tossed my avocado pieces in lime juice before using.

Follow with the chicken, season with salt and pepper, then add any necessary remaining ingredients for a nice representation.

Drizzle the barbecue sauce and the chipotle blue cheese dressings over the salad and serve.

The restaurant’s salad has tortilla strips, but I found these, called horneadas, and thought they were fun! I don’t like feeling “forced” to eat things in a salad that I don’t love. Namely, tortilla strips.

Besides the wonderful flavors of this unique salad, the textures are lovely, especially because of jicama.

Spiced Chicken Tart

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I used to have this thing about “little” cookbooks, like they weren’t worthy unless they were hefty and contained lots of photographs. Fortunately, I learned my lesson, because I have a few favorite little cookbooks now.

The one I’m referring to today is called Savory to Sweet Pies & Tarts, by Janice Murfitt, published in 1993.

Maybe a sign that it’s a significant, albeit little book, is the foreword by Albert Roux, of the famous Roux brothers.

In the foreword, he states that the author “provides new and unusual ways of adding flavor and interest to the basic pastries used, such as adding crushed nuts or citrus zest, and also presents a splendid array of fillings, both comfortingly traditional and classic with an intriguing twist.”

In this case, the tart I’m making appeals to me because of the curry flavors. It could be called a curried chicken quiche in puff pastry.

Spiced Chicken Tart
Slightly adapted

6 ounces frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 pound raw chicken breast, diced
1 small sweet potato, peeled, diced, and cooked
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon mango chutney, diced if necessary
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Roll out the dough thinly on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a rectangular tart or round pie pan. Flute the edges and chill 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake the pastry shell “blind” until lightly browned at the edges, 10-15 minutes. Lower the oven to 375 degrees.

While the shell is baking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic and cook quickly for 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the spices, chicken, and cooked sweet potato. I browned the chicken first and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken cooks a little more. Then add the cilantro, lime zest, juice, salt, pepper and chutney. Remove from the heat.

Gently place the chicken mixture into the prepared crust. Beat together the cream and eggs and pour into the pastry shell.

Bake until the filling has set, 15-20 Minutes.

Serve hot or cold, garnished with chopped cilantro.

Sour cream would also be a lovely addition.

There’s something so special about this little tart. It’s a perfect combination of ingredients all put together in puff pastry.

 

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!

 

 

Chinese Hot Pot

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My French mother went through a long Chinese cooking phase, starting when we moved to Seattle, Washington. An avid scuba diver, Mom made a deal with Mrs. Chin, who owned a Chinese cooking store and school at Pike Place market in Seattle. In exchange for sea cucumbers picked off of the Puget Sound’s sandy floor, Mom received cooking classes. This is a photo of a sea cucumber – a Chinese delicacy.

I can’t stress enough that this was not stir frying. This was serious Chinese cookery. Mom had pots and woks and steamers and cleavers and a lot of required utensils and dinnerware. Our kitchen smelled like an Asian food store. (Think fishy.)

We were not the perfect diners during those years. My step-father was distant. My sister and I wished we were anywhere else than at the dinner table. And my mother, having the disposition she had, resented doing all of the work she did, with us not appreciating it.

But, let’s just say she was never one to understand our side of things. We were kids. We didn’t ask her to slave away in the kitchen prepping winter melons and steaming buns. And when you’re 14, you definitely don’t appreciate the work your mother does, right?! Especially when my friends got to eat Cocoa Puffs and Mac ‘n cheese, while I was staring at a deep-fried Tiger lily.

However, there were a few times when I appreciated and enjoyed a meal at our house, and that was when my mother prepared Chinese hot pot. This is a photo of my mother’s old hot pot. One actually put coals in the bottom compartment, and in the round basin went the broth in which everything was cooked. I think at least one table got ruined from the extreme heat.

On the table would be plates of beef, shrimp, and chicken, all thinly sliced by mom and her giant cleaver. I remember she’d hold up a slice of shrimp and it I could see light through it. There were bowls of eggs and tofu and green onions and cellophane noodles. In front of each of us was our own bowl, and our own sieve, for cooking, and porcelain spoon, for eating. And then we’d start.

Just for the heck of it, I recently searched Amazon for an electric hot pot, and lo and behold, it exists! No need to burn my table.

To remind myself how to have a hot pot night I turned to my trusty Time-Life Chinese Cookbook and checked a recipe called Chrysanthemum Fire Pot. It’s pretty much what I remember.

From the recipe, one starts by cooking the meat, fish, and seafood in the stock, dipping that into the sauce, and eating.

From the recipe, “When all of the meat, fish, and seafood have been consumed, a little of the stock (now a rich, highly-flavored broth) is ladled into each guest’s bowl and drunk as a soup. The noodles and vegetables are then dropped in the stock remaining in the fire pot, cooked for a minute or so, and ladled with the broth into the bowls to be eaten as a last course.”

The following is not exactly a recipe for hot pot, but somewhat of a guide for having your own.

Chinese Hot Pot
Adapt according to your tastes

Shrimp, cleaned, sliced through the middle from tail to head
Chicken breast, thinly sliced uniformly
Beef tenderloin, thinly sliced uniformly
Halibut or other white fish, thinly sliced uniformly
Tofu, excess water removed, cubed
Cellophane noodles, prepared
Eggs, whisked in small bowl
Green onions, sliced
A chiffonade of spinach leaves
Approximately 3 quarts good chicken stock*

Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons sesame seed oil
4 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or pale dry sherry

Place the shrimp, chicken, fish and beef on one large platter or individual plates with tongs.

Place the tofu, noodles, eggs, spinach, and green onions, in individual bowls with serving utensils.

Prepare the sauce by mixing the 3 ingredients together. Place a small amount in each bowl, and serve the rest in a cruet.

Pour the broth in your electric hot pot, straining if necessary, and turn it to high.

Place what you want to cook into the strainer, place the strainer in the broth for as long as it takes to cook to your liking. Remove to a plate. Using chopsticks, dip in sauce. Eat. Repeat.

When it’s time for the soup, first add the noodles and spinach to the broth and let simmer for a few minutes. Then ladle some into your main bowl, add egg, some dipping sauce, green onions, tofu, plus some chile pepper oil, if desired.

All of the ingredients are optional, just make the soup to your tastes.

Here is a photo of hot pot for four, which works well if you put out the beef, chicken, fish and shrimp out first, with the dipping sauce.

After you’re done with part 1, remove those ingredients, add the spinach and noodles, plus more broth if necessary, to the simmering broth, and bring the soup ingredients to the table. You can also save some of the cooked protein for the soup.

I used Shichimi Togarashi on the protein, even the tofu. It’s a wonderful seasoning mixture. It’s Japanese, but we also enjoy sake with hot pot, and the chile pepper oil is Korean, so consider this a fusion meal!

* The day before I served the hot pot, I simmered some high-quality chicken broth on the stove with a thawed chicken carcass, some dried Chinese chile peppers, Szechuan peppercorns, a few sprigs of cilantro, ginger, garlic, about 1/2 teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice, and a couple of bay leaves. I also soaked dried Shitake mushrooms in hot water for about 10 minutes, and added the mushroom liquor to the broth. It was perfect!

Doro Wat

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Doro Wat, which translates to chicken stew, is a traditional Ethiopian dish.

It’s very simple to prepare, only require sautéing and poaching. But it must be made with the spice paste and the spice-infused butter to create the really unique flavors of Ethiopian cuisine.

Doro wat, as with other stews are typically eaten with injera – Ethiopian stretchy bread that looks like a large spongy crepe. It’s made with teff flour, and it’s used to pick up the meat and vegetables, and wipe up the juices. No forks!

Please go to an Ethiopian restaurant for the whole dining experience. You won’t regret it! Here is a photo of injera from one we went to in Brooklyn, New York, called Ghenet.

The recipe for Doro Wat comes from the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook entitled African Cooking.

When I made this stew, I served it to friends who had never experienced Ethiopian cuisine before, along with yewollo ambasha. They loved it.

Doro Wat

3 pounds boneless chicken thighs, trimmed
1 lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup niter kebbeh
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 1″ piece fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup berberé
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
6 hard boiled eggs

First, cut up the thighs into about 3 or 4 manageable pieces, and place them in a large bowl. Squeeze lemon juice into the bowl, add the salt, and toss the chicken. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the niter kibbeh to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook them for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another few minutes.

Add the fenugreek, cardamom, nutmeg and berberé to the pot and cook the onion mixture for a few minutes, or until the berberé becomes completely combined with the other ingredients.

Then add the white wine and water and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces to the sauce, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes over low heat.

Pierce the hard boiled eggs with the tines of a fork, and place them in the pot with the chicken. Cover the pot again and cook for another 15 minutes. Ooops I forgot to do that.

Serve the chicken hot with plenty of sauce, and make sure each serving includes a hard boiled egg. Any kind of bread would be good with doro wat, and comes in handy with the spicy sauce.

After you’re done using the berberé, remember to put more oil over the top!

Sweet and Spicy Sauce

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It all started when I ordered some barbecue and simmering sauces from Williams-Sonoma, in anticipation of surgeries on both hands this year. Typically I make everything from scratch, but I was unable to do much in the kitchen for about 4 months total.

One of the sauces I purchased was Roy Choi’s Sweet and Spicy sauce. It was to die for, and I’m not typically enamored by prepared sauces. They’re typically too sweet for me.

However, this sauce had the perfect balance, but when I wanted to buy more, they were sold out. So then I googled Roy Choi, and bought one of his cookbooks, L. A. Son, published in 2013, and discovered the exact sauce in his cookbook!

It had to be the same sauce because of the main components, described as “a vibrant mix of sweet chile sauce, sesame, garlic and citrus.“

I especially loved what was written by Mr. Choi regarding this recipe: “I’ve always loved the sauces in life more than the food – maybe that’s why I cook the way I do.” He suggests drowning your chicken or shrimp in this sauce.

After my first surgery, my husband grilled drumsticks for me, because they were something I could eat with one hand, and I seriously drowned them in the jarred sweet and spicy sauce. Until it was all gone, that is. So when I made this sauce from scratch, I again cooked up some chicken legs.

The fun thing about making this recipe is that I ordered and used fresh galangal for the first time. Yay Amazon!

What is interesting about this sauce is that it’s blended raw.

The cookbook reminds me so much of Guerilla Tacos author, Wesley Avila, who’s a tattooed Mexican American, and Roy Choi is a tattooed Korean American. Both books contain the best bittersweet and hysterically funny stories of their rise to success. Both live in Los Angeles, California, and have had food taco trucks!

That’s So Sweet

(that what Roy call this sauce!)
Makes about 4 cups

1 – 25 ounce bottle Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Serrano chiles, chopped, seeds and all
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Sriracha
3/4 white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (I used regular basil)
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2/3 dried Anaheim chile, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped peeled ginger
2/3 cup chopped scallions
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kochukaru (gochugaru)
2/3 cup natural rice vinegar
1 teaspoon peeled galangal

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender.

Blend everything until it’s all smooth.

Use liberally on whatever you got cooking for dinner – chicken, shrimp, everything – and pack the rest in Tupperware. It’ll store in the fridge for 2 weeks.

I actually strained the sauce first because I don’t like biting down on chile pepper seeds.

And for old time’s sake, I tried the sauce with drumsticks.

And the verdict? Absolutely wonderful. It has to be the same sauce. The flavor was outstanding – sweet and spicy.

When I first removed the lid from the blender jar, my nose was burning from the chile peppers. So I covered it and refrigerated the sauce for 24 hours. The color actually deepened, and I’m not sure if the flavors mellowed or not, since I didn’t taste it right away. But it’s so good. I’ll be making this again for a mixed grill dinner!

And seriously, if you’re fascinating with chefs’ biographies, as well as great recipes, read Roy Choi’s and Wesley Avila’s books. For an example, Roy Choi ended up externing with Eric Ripert – by accident!

Olive-Brined Chicken Thighs

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My girlfriend recently told me about her tried-and-true recipe for fried chicken, which begins with marinating chicken in pickle juice. I have been so intrigued by that and curious about the flavor the juice imparts. She’s promised me to make it when I visit next time, and I can’t wait.

I started thinking about pickle juice when I was perusing my jarred items in my refrigerator the other day (doesn’t everyone do that?!!) and I saw a jar of brine saved from olives. I do this for my son-in-law, who is the dirty martini drinker of the family.

My mind went from olive juice to chicken, as in, marinate chicken in the brine, and then follow my friend’s second step which is to marinate with buttermilk.

I have 3 friends who swear by marinating chicken in buttermilk, and it’s a popular Samin Nosrat recipe as well. There’s something about the acid in the buttermilk that tenderizes the chicken, whether you’re planning on frying or roasting or whatever.

So, this is what happened with my olive brine and buttermilk experiment.

Olive Brine, and Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Thighs

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2 1/2 pounds total
Salt and pepper
12 ounces olive brine
12 ounces buttermilk
Garlic pepper
Olive oil

Place the thighs in a baking dish or ziploc bag. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the olive brine and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Remove from the brine and pat dry on paper towels. Place in another baking dish or ziploc bag, and fill with buttermilk. Refrigerate for another 24 hours.

Remove the chicken thighs to paper towels to drain.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while the thighs warm up a bit.

Drizzle a little olive oil in a baking dish that will comfortably fit the thighs. Season them with garlic pepper. Right before baking, drizzle some olive oil over the chicken thighs.

Bake until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F. This took my oven approximately 25 minutes. If you want more browning, use the broiler for a few minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven, and place the chicken on a serving platter. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic pepper, if desired.

I made some carrot and pea fritters to pair with the chicken, mostly for some color and texture.

I mixed together 75% crème fraiche and 25% Kewpie mayonnaise for a creamy condiment. A little Sriracha was tempting, but I decided to keep everything mild in order to highlight the chicken.

Have you ever tried Remoulade in a tube? It is excellent.

No condiment is really necessary. I just like condiments.

The chicken was super moist, and tasted just like olives. It doesn’t look like much, but wow.

I didn’t realize the olive brine would impart so much flavor!

The marinated chicken could have also been grilled.

I’m certainly convinced about what buttermilk does for chicken as a marinade. But I also like olive brine’s part in this chicken. Next time? Pickle juice!