Surf & Turf Salad: Thai Style Quinoa Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Thai style surf & turf quinoa salad

Upon returning home after traveling and dining out for a few days I was looking very much forward to a home cooked meal last night! After rustling through the cupboards and the freezer I settled on surf and turf in the form of a grouper fillet from my last trip to the Florida Keys, complimented by a small skirt steak. Neither was quite enough for a meal by itself but together I thought I could come up with something special for the two of us.

While exploring the fridge I also stumbled upon a bottle of Thai style peanut dressing I had made just before leaving town and that got me thinking salad would be just the ticket! The first order of business was making a Thai style marinade for the steak and a batch of quinoa that would complement those flavors. For the dressing I had used This Recipe from a blog that I follow and added only a teaspoon of tamarind paste and a splash of fresh coconut milk for a flavor boost.

The salad itself was simply ingredients I had on hand; the base was a “Power Greens” salad mix with chopped red cabbage, grated carrots, and chopped celery. I tossed each portion gently with ½ cup each of the quinoa and garnished the salad with cucumber slices, fresh parsley, and some pickled baby beets that were also on hand. After dressing the salad I set the cooked fish and sliced steak on top and sprinkled everything with a few black and white sesame seeds. I also added a few raw cashews at the table as an afterthought (not in picture).

Thai Marinade for Steak or Fish

2 – Scallions, chopped
1 – 3 inch piece of Lemon Grass stalk, pounded to release flavor
¼ Cup Light Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp – Grape Seed Oil
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp – Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp – Fresh Garlic, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Ginger, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Lime juice (about ½ of a lime)
1 Tbsp – Fresh lime zest (also about ½ of a lime)
½ Tsp – Sriracha or similar (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients and whisk to combine.  Soak steak until ready to grill (at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours). Soak fish for no more than 20 minutes for best grilling results.

To prepare the meats: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and the grill pan over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Brush the grill pan with a little grape seed oil and place the fish at an angle to the ridges in the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes (depending on thickness), turn and cook 2 minutes more. Place the fish on an oven proof dish and finish in the oven just until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is in the oven wipe the grill pan, heat the pan over medium high heat until smoking hot, brush the surface with a little more oil. Make sure your steak is trimmed of any excess fat or silverskin and and place the steak at an angle to the ridges in the pan. Cook without moving for 2-3 minutes, turn and cook 2-3 minutes more (depending on thickness). Rest the steak on a plate for at least 5 minutes before slicing ACROSS the grain.

Thai Flavored Quinoa

1 Cup – Quinoa, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Tri Colored Quinoa)
2 Cups – Water
1 Tbsp – Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Clove – Garlic, whole
2 – 3 inch pieces of Lemon Grass stalk, pounded to release flavor
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Warm a medium saucepan over medium heat, swirl in the sesame oil then stir in the quinoa, garlic, and lemon grass. Toast gently for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally or if you hear popping. Dissolve the dark soy sauce in the water then pour, while stirring, over the quinoa. Raise the heat to medium high and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook 15 minutes more. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow it to cool before tossing into your salad, remove the lemon grass and garlic before serving.

To serve prepare your salad base of mixed greens (use your imagination!), grated carrots, cut celery, and red cabbage. Toss gently with ½ cup of quinoa per serving and garnish with sliced cucumbers, radishes, pickled beets or whatever else you like. Drizzle the salad with dressing, place your fish and sliced
steak on top and garnish with sesame seeds and a little sliced scallion.

Enjoy!

Yard Sale Brunch: Personal Frittatas with Shrimp, Bacon, and Smoked Gouda

Shrimp & Bacon Frittatas

My wife Kathy and some of our friends had another yard sale today. As usual, once the tents and tables were up, I wanted to make a brunch treat to go along with their requisite mimosas. I had a shrimp and bacon frittata in mind based loosely on a pizza we’ve had at one of our favorite haunts in the Florida Keys. Trouble is, after picking up all of my ingredients last night I realized this morning that our oven is broken!

I was contemplating how to do a frittata on the grill when Kathy suggested I use the toaster oven and a muffin tin to make mini (personal) frittatas. What a novel idea! You don’t have to make yours in a muffin tin but they really were great for an outdoor brunch. They went perfectly with chilled fresh cantaloupe and the banana muffins someone else made…not to mention those mimosas!

I make frittatas often, sometimes even for dinner, and I always use this web article as a  guide: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/cyor/frittata.aspx. I know I’ve posted it before but really can’t recommend it enough…we have yet to be disappointed.

Shrimp and Bacon Frittatas with Smoked Gouda

24 – Medium Shrimp
8 – Large Eggs
6 slices – Thick Sliced Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon, cooked (2 Slices Reserved)
1/2 Cup – Smoked Gouda Cheese, Grated
1/2 Cup – Heavy Cream
3 – Green Onions (about ¼ cup sliced)
1 Tbsp. – Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp. – Unsalted Butter, Melted
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground Pepper
Olive Oil Spray

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. To prep the shrimp, dissolve 2 Tbsp. kosher salt in 4 cups of water. Peel and devein the shrimp and soak them in the salty water for a few minutes while preparing the other ingredients. Place another pan of water on the stove and start bringing this to a boil.

Slice the green onions diagonally into roughly 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices then cut 4 slices of bacon in half first lengthwise, then into ½ inch pieces. Grate the cheese and place together in a bowl with the onions and bacon.

When the pan of water has come to a boil strain the shrimp, blanch them in the boiling water for one minute, then strain them again. Toss these in a bowl with the melted butter then, when cool enough to touch, cut each shrimp crossway into 2 -3 bite sized pieces.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl with the cream and the flour, adding fresh ground pepper to taste. Then gently fold in the cheese, onion, and bacon mixture. Lastly, gently fold in the shrimp and you are now ready to make your frittata!

If you are going to use a muffin tin, line each cup with paper muffin cups. Give each cup a good spray of olive oil then using a very large spoon distribute the egg mixture as evenly as possible into twelve cups. Place the muffin tin carefully in the oven (or toaster oven) and bake 20 minutes, checking often after 15 minutes to make sure the tops don’t get too brown. Allow these to cool a few minutes before serving.

Before serving slice the remaining bacon pieces on an angle and garnish each personal frittata with a piece poked into the top.

Alternative cooking method: Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, pour in the egg mixture evenly, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes until the eggs begin to set and finish in a 325 degree oven until set, 15 – 20 minutes.

Allow the pan to cool a little before carefully sliding the frittata onto a cutting board, cool a few more minutes, slice and…

Enjoy!

Meatless Monday: Ensalada Caprese Stack with Toasted Garlic “Croutons” and Savory Butternut Squash Soup

Photo by Kathyhuntphoto.com

Meatless Monday seems to be growing in popularity and meat lover that I am, I’ve been avoiding it like the plague! But now that the holidays are over and I’m back to eating relatively healthful food day to day but…I still have pants in the closet that I can’t fit into anymore!

While I’m well aware that eating veggies only once a week isn’t going to make a significant impact it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It also starts off the week with a kick to my immune system and sets the stage for eating good wholesome food throughout the rest of the week.  So, meatless Monday it is!

Bacon bits just wouldn’t have been right so I went with the garlic “croutons”. These are not actually croutons but simply pan toasted chopped garlic. These yummy little tidbits pack a punch, are easy to make and great as a garnish for soups, salads, or even cooked vegetables.

I use a little dairy in both of these recipes. If you avoid dairy try making the tomato stack with firm tofu in place of the mozzarella cheese and unsweetened almond milk would be very good in the soup.

Note: The soup is best if made the day before and it also makes this an easy dinner to prepare on a Monday night!

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

1 – Large butternut squash
1 – Whole head of garlic
1 – Med yellow onion, halved then sliced thin
1 Tbsp – Fresh ginger, grated
6 Cups – Low sodium vegetable broth
1 Cup – Low fat kefir, plain (or non-fat buttermilk)
Olive Oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil (or canola)
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spritz with cooking spray. Quarter the squash leaving the seeds intact and place skin side down on the baking pan. Spritz the squash with a little of the cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.

Very carefully cut roughly ½ inch off the top (pointy end) of the garlic head. (The idea is to expose as many of the cloves as possible without removing too much of the meat.) Place the garlic on a piece of foil then drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil evenly over the top. Season with salt and pepper then bring the edges of the foil together over the top of the garlic head to seal.

Now place the baking sheet into the oven then place the neat little package of garlic on one of the corners of the baking sheet alongside the squash. Bake for 45 minutes, carefully remove the garlic and bake the squash 15 minutes more. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is cooling add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a 4 quart sauce pan and place over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the pan is sizzling and the onion has begun to become transparent. Lower the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onion turn golden, about 10 minutes.

When the squash have cooled enough to work with remove the skin and the seeds. (If they are not too burned; save the seeds for garnish or to munch on later.) As you work, place the cooked squash pieces into the pan along with the onions continuing to stir once in a while. Carefully remove the garlic cloves from the head and gently squeeze the roasted meat out of the skin, adding this to the pan with the onions and squash.

When you have all of the squash and the garlic added to the pan, add 2 cups of the broth, raise the heat to medium high and cook stirring often until most of the broth has evaporated. Stir in 3 more cups of broth and reserve the remaining cup for later. Allow the soup to just come back to a boil then remove it from the heat.

With the pan off of the heat, use an immersion blender to carefully puree the soup while adding the kefir a little at a time. Blend until all of the ingredients are well pureed and the soup has become silky smooth. Check the flavor and add salt and pepper if needed then return the pan to the heat and cook stirring often until heated through. If the soup is too think stir in the reserved cup of broth to bring back the consistency. Serve garnished with toasted garlic “croutons” and just a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

Ensalada Caprese Stack with Toasted Garlic “Croutons”

1 – Med to med-large very fresh, very ripe tomato per person, rinsed well
4 – ¼ thick slices fresh mozzarella per tomato
1 branch – Fresh basil, per tomato
Aged balsamic vinegar (I used12 year old)
Extra virgin olive oil
Mixed baby greens salad
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Slice enough off the bottom of each tomato to allow it to sit flat. Working one tomato at a time and slicing horizontally cut each into five equal slices including the top. Position the tomato slices in such a way that you can easily reassemble them into the original tomato shape.

Starting at the bottom, sprinkle the first slice with a little kosher salt & pepper. Now add a slice of mozzarella and a leaf or two of fresh basil, then drizzle this with a little of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Set the next tomato slice on top and repeat the process until the tomato is reassembled with salt and pepper, cheese, basil, and oil and vinegar between each slice.

Before putting the top back on the tomato carefully cut out the stem, then after placing the top back on the tomato, drizzle a little more oil and vinegar into the hole left behind. Pinch the top of f of a branch of basil and place the stem end into the same hole so that it appears to be leaves on the tomato.

To serve, spread a serving of mixed baby greens on the plate then carefully set the tomato in the center. Sprinkle the greens with a little of the oil and vinegar, then garnish with toasted garlic “croutons” and just a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

Toasted Garlic Croutons

 2 to 4 Tbsp – Garlic, roughly chopped (large mince)
2 Tbsp – Olive Oil
1 – Pinch of kosher salt

Warm a small non-stick pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer lower the heat to low and stir in the garlic. Stirring very often to avoid burning, cook until all of the garlic has become evenly cooked and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic to drain on a paper towel much as you would with bacon. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and shake the paper towel a little to distribute and to spread out the garlic so the pieces don’t stick together. Allow “croutons” a minute or two to dry before serving.

Enjoy!

Randy

Velveting Chicken 101 – Chicken Stir Fry with Chive Blossoms, White Birch and Enokitake Mushrooms

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

Have you ever wondered how Chinese restaurants get their chicken so moist and tender? I used to think they had added MSG or some secret tenderizer that made the chicken taste great but was probably horrible for you. I had all but given up on figuring it out, relegating myself to Chinese takeout when I craved that “velvety” goodness when I came across an article about a cooking process actually called velveting.

Used not only for chicken, but also for beef and even pork, velveting is the simple process of marinating the meat in a “batter” of egg whites and corn starch then frying or poaching to set the coating. In restaurants they usually fry the meat quickly in plenty of oil but having tried both I actually prefer poaching. I think the protein comes out more moist and tender when cooked in water and using a little less oil certainly never hurts.

Below is the recipe I prepared most recently but the beauty of a stir fry is the unlimited number of combinations of ingredients you can use. This one would be good with broccoli, snow peas, and maybe even a few cashews in place of the chive blossoms and mushrooms…use your imagination and see what new dish you can dream up. Just remember to cook your vegetables starting with the ones that take longest to cook and finishing with the most delicate.

Chicken Stir Fry with Chive Blossoms, White Birch and Enokitake Mushrooms

To velvet the chicken…

2 – Boneless skinless chicken breasts, about ¾ lbs
1 – Egg white
1 Tbsp. – Corn starch
1 Tbsp. – Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 Tbsp. – Sesame oil
1 sprinkle – Kosher salt

Slice the chicken breast into thin, even slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken, combine the 5 remaining ingredients and whisk to thoroughly blend. Stir in the chicken slices and toss to coat well. Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

In a wok over high heat bring 8 cups of water to a very light boil. Reduce the heat to medium and poach the chicken in two batches stirring gently to separate the pieces. Cook until the chicken turns mostly white (about two minutes) then remove to a strainer to drain.

Your chicken is now velveted and ready to use in your favorite stir fry!

For the stir fry…

2 cups – Velveted chicken breast
4 cups – Chive blossoms, sliced in two to three inch pieces, tough bottoms removed
2 cups – White birch mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and separated
1 package – Enokitake mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and separated (roughly 1 cups worth)
½ Cup – Chicken broth
2 Tbsp. – Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 Tbsp. – Tamari
1-1/2 Tbsp. – Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. – Garlic, finely minced or pureed
1 Tbsp. – Ginger, finely minced or pureed
1 Tbsp. – Corn starch
1 Tbsp. – Sesame oil
1 Tbsp. – Grape seed or peanut oil

In a small bowl mix the chicken broth, wine, tamari, hoisin, and corn starch until well blended. Set this aside for later.

Heat the wok over high heat and add the oils. Stirring rapidly, add the garlic and ginger and cook about 30 seconds continuing to stir. Stir in the white birch mushrooms and cook one minute before adding the chive blossoms, cook two minutes more while stirring…try to keep the ingredients spread out rather than all crowded in the middle of the wok.

Stir in the chicken then pour in the sauce mixture tossing all to combine. Continue cooking only until the sauce has come to a boil and has begun to thicken.

With the wok off of the heat gently stir in most of the enokitaki mushrooms reserving some for garnish.

Serve over cooked rice and enjoy!

Randy

Menu – Lightly Blackened Scallops with Crispy Prosciutto and an Orange, Rosemary, & White Wine Reduction, Cauliflower Mash with Boursin, & Julienned Snow Peas with Toasted Pine Nuts and Orange Supremes

Photo by Kathyhuntphoto.com

The other night I set out looking for clams to make a fresh clam, broccoli rabe, and sausage dish I had in mind. Alas, I came home with scallops. As funny as that sounds I was a little disappointed that the clams at the two purveyors I visited appeared to have been languishing in their little net bags just a little too long. With all seafood and especially shellfish I am extremely picky about freshness…I had to take a pass on the clams. But being the Friday before Christmas I did want to make a special dinner so Costco and their frozen sea scallops saved the day again. As I’ve mentioned before, I really like these “dry-packed” flash frozen scallops and I still always verify “Ingredients: Sea Scallops”. No salt and definitely no sodium tripolyphosphate!

To prepare these scallops for cooking simply give them a quick rinse, carefully remove the little hard tab of adductor muscle off of the side of each scallop, then dab them with a paper towel to dry. I usually place them on another paper towel set on a plate and refrigerate the scallops while I’m getting everything else ready. Keeping the scallops dry helps to promote browning once the scallops to hit the pan.

In this recipe I use the rosemary and the prosciutto to infuse the olive oil with flavor before cooking the scallops. I found that blackening seasoning alone was a little too much for the delicate scallops but with the flour added the seasonings were perfect and the flour helped form a nice crust. To ensure that even caramelization on the crust try not to move the scallops too much once they are in the pan…set them in, swirling the pan a little to distribute the oil, then leave them alone until you turn them. Timing is important so I suggest preparing the cauliflower first, blanching the snow peas while the cauliflower is steaming. Then while the scallops are cooking it only takes a minute or two to finish the snow peas and process the cauliflower.

Keep your eye out for that clam, broccoli rabe, and sausage recipe…as soon as I can find some decent clams!

Lightly Blackened Scallops with Crispy Prosciutto and an Orange, White Wine, and Rosemary Reduction Sauce

3 – Large dry packed sea scallops per person (Adductor muscles removed)
Juice of 1 Orange, zest reserved
1/8 cup – Dry white wine
3 large or 4 medium sprigs fresh rosemary
1 – Level teaspoon blackening seasonings
1 – Heaping teaspoon whole wheat flour
½ Stick – cold unsalted butter, quartered and cut into 16 cubes
2 Tbsp – Prosciutto, sliced thin then sliced across into 1/8 to ¼ inch strips
Extra virgin olive oil

In a 10 inch non-stick skillet heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add ¾ of the fresh rosemary and swirl the pan to cook, pressing the rosemary into the olive oil with a wooden fork from time to time. Cook until the smell of rosemary is permeating the kitchen. (Your family may come in to see what smells so doggone good!)  After 5 minutes or so the rosemary will begin to look brown and crisp. Use the fork to carefully remove the rosemary allowing any excess oil to drain back into the pan. Set the rosemary aside.

Over the same medium heat, add the prosciutto to the pan and stir briskly while shaking the pan to separate the pieces. Cook stirring constantly until the prosciutto begins to brown. When the prosciutto has changed color and appears mostly browned, empty the pan into a strainer, reserving the oil. Once the oil has mostly drained, set the prosciutto on a paper towel to dry (much like bacon). Return the captured oil to the pan and set back on the heat.

Combine the blackening seasonings and the flour and stir to mix. Press both flat sides of each scallop into the flour mixture then place the scallops directly into the pan swirling occasionally to distribute the oil.  Cook the scallops about two minutes, turn and cook two minutes to two and a half minutes more to caramelize before removing to the serving plates. Note: Scallops should be cooked “almost” all the way through when you move them to the plates. The residual heat will finish cooking them while you make the sauce.

Return the pan to the heat and increase the heat to medium high adding the orange juice, the remaining rosemary, and the wine to the pan to deglaze. Allow the liquids to boil swirling the pan occasionally until the sauce comes to a syrupy consistency. When the liquids have mostly reduced and have become syrupy, remove the rosemary. Add the butter 4 cubes at a time swirling the pan (or gently whisking) off the heat to incorporate the melted butter. Return the pan to the heat occasionally to keep the butter melting and repeat until the sauce has thickened and the all of the butter is incorporated.

To serve, drizzle a small amount of the sauce over each scallop then top each with some of the crispy prosciutto and garnish with orange zest.

Cauliflower Mash with Boursin

1 – Small head of Cauliflower
¼ cup – Chicken broth
2 Tbsp – Garlic & herb Boursin cheese
1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
1 dash – Fresh ground nutmeg
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add a steamer basket to a medium sized stew pot along with 1-1/2 cups of water. Place the cauliflower in the steamer basket and bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling place a lid on the pot and steam until the cauliflower is quite tender, about 10 minutes.

Move the pot from the heat and very carefully transfer the cauliflower to a food processor with a standard blade. Use a wooden spoon to break up the cauliflower then add the broth, boursin, butter, and nutmeg. Process until smooth, check for seasonings and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Julienned Snow Peas with Toasted Pine Nuts and Orange Supremes

½ Lb – Snow Peas, julienned (sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 pieces)
1 heaping Tbsp. – Pine nuts
1 – Small navel orange, cut into supremes ( How to   )
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cups – Water

Add water, salt, and the snow peas to a sauce pan over medium high heat. When the water comes to a full boil remove the pan from the heat and strain.

While the peas are draining dry the pan then place it over medium heat for one minute. Add the pine nuts to the dry pan and cook stirring constantly until the nuts begin to brown in spots.

Over the same heat, add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pine nuts and stir in the oranges. As soon as the pan begins to simmer, stir in the snow peas and cook until heated through. Stir in kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Randy

Crusty Chicken with Mushroom & Leek Sauce

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

I just have to say Jacques Pepin is one of my favorite “celebrity” chefs! Between the wonderful shows with he and Julia Child and the “you can do this at home” approach to so many of his recipes, I really have grown to appreciate his work. Tonight was no exception as I was looking to use a giant chicken that my wife brought home but wanted something fast, something other than the same old tired recipes.

Jacques calls for chicken thighs but I split that giant chicken in half saving half (still over 3 lbs of chicken!) for later. Leaving the chicken intact, I removed all but the largest bones from the half that I did cook making it lay nice and flat in the pan…it cooked up perfectly! I took a few other small liberties with the recipe but the credit for this one absolutely goes to Jacques. Thank you Chef Pepin for all that you do!

For your cooking pleasure you can find the original recipe here: http://www.kqed.org/w/morefastfoodmyway/recipes.html#210

Crusty Chicken with Mushroom & Leek Sauce

One half chicken, intact with all but the largest bones removed, skin on
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup leeks, rinsed and halves lengthwise, then sliced in ¼ inch slices
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
3 cups washed and sliced (1/4 inch) baby bella or white mushrooms
Roughly 1/3 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp parsley chopped fresh, plus one Tbsp for garnish

Arrange the chicken skin side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, trim off any excess skin at the edges, remove wing tips, and cut about 1/2 inch deep into the flesh on either side of the thigh bone. (This will help the meat cook more quickly.) Sprinkle each side evenly with ½ of the salt and pepper and arrange the chicken skin side down in a nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid.

Place the skillet over high heat and when the chicken starts sizzling reduce the heat to medium low, cover tightly, and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the chicken is browning properly. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150 degrees. If the chicken seems to be cooking too fast after 10 minutes or so, reduce the heat to low. The skin of the chicken should be very crisp and brown. Transfer the chicken skin side up to an ovenproof platter and place it in the oven.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet in which you cooked the chicken. Add the leeks, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté them over high heat for about 3 minutes. Test for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste then add the wine and any liquid that has accumulated around the thighs on the platter. Cook the sauce over high heat for about 1 minute to reduce the liquid.

Note: If a richer sauce is desired stir 1 Tbsp of butter into the mushrooms just before serving.

To serve, divide the sauce among serving plates. Carve the chicken into serving portions and place in the middle of the mushroom sauce on each plate, spoon some sauce over, sprinkle with additional fresh parsley, and serve.

Enjoy!

Randy

Oyako Donburi – A Little Warmth On A Rainy Night

Photo by kathyhuntphoto,com

Wikipedia defines Comfort Food as “food prepared traditionally, that may have a nostalgic or sentimental appeal, or simply provide an easy-to-eat, easy-to-digest meal rich in calories, nutrients or both”.

While I wouldn’t argue with any of the above I might add that, Comfort Food for me is often a dish that will comfort my soul following a rough time, can be a dish that reminds me of someone I care deeply about and most certainly, comfort food will warm the body on a cold day or the heart on a rainy one.

Getting back to the definition, Wikepedia goes on to say comfort foods can be “foods that have a nostalgic element either to an individual or specific culture” and this is where I get to my point. Oyako Donburi is a very well known comfort food in Japan and especially popular in Hawaii. It is a dish of chicken and eggs simmered in a warm broth and served in a bowl over rice.

In Japanese “Oyako” loosely translates to “parent and child” and “Donburi” is usually “bowl” or “rice bowl”. You may also see this dish called “Oyakodon” which is simply an abbreviation of the same. Vaguely similar in ingredients to the Vietnamese soup, Pho Ga, which has definitely become a comfort food for my wife and I, Oyako Donburi may well become our next new favorite.

Which brings me to today…it’s been raining steady here for two days straight and yesterday was a lazy, rainy Sunday.  It was the perfect day for making a big batch of homemade chicken stock and when the rain continued all day today, a comfort food meal seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. After a little research and some stovetop experimentation, Oyako Donburi was just the right prescription for a cozy night at home!

Notes: This recipe is not entirely authentic and is something of a fusion recipe as I use a Chinese method of “velveting” the chicken in step 1. Although you can skip this step and simply simmer the chicken pieces in the broth with the onions, I highly recommend taking the extra few minutes. The difference in flavor and texture is well worth the added effort.

Once the chicken is “velveted”, I prepare Step 3 one portion at a time for continuity…this step comes together fairly quickly. Feel free to experiment with ingredients; a Google search of Oyako Donburi recipes will give you many ideas from adding miso or cilantro to using bonito flakes (dried fish) for a variety of flavors.

Oyako Donburi

Begin by preparing enough brown rice for two 1 to 1-1/2 cup portions, then go to step 1 while the rice is cooking. The rice should be steaming hot when added to the bowls as it serves to finish cooking the eggs.

Step 1 – “Velvet” the chicken:

2 Tbsp – Dry sake
2 Tbsp – Warm water
2 Tbsp – Corn starch
1 – White of 1 large egg
1 – Good pinch of kosher salt
1 Large or 2 small – Chicken breast halves, split lengthwise then sliced crosswise into thin slices
1 Tsp – Sesame oil

Combine the first 5 ingredients and whisk only until well combined. Stir in the chicken pieces and marinate this mixture for at least ½ hour, refrigerated.

Fill a small wok (or a med sauce pan) at least half full with water and bring to a gentle boil. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil then carefully add ½ of the chicken, strained of excess marinade, and cook gently separating the chicken slices to prevent clumping.

When the chicken is solid white and cooked through (about 1-1/2 to two minutes) the chicken will begin to float. At that point, remove the chicken to a strainer to drain. Repeat until all of the chicken is cooked setting the strainer over a bowl to drain. Discard the water and if making ahead, refrigerate the chicken until ready to use. Note: I used a Chinese Spider Strainer for this cooking process and a traditional 8″ mesh strainer to drain the chicken.

Step 2 – Simmer and “bowl” the following 1 portion at a time

1/2 Cup – Fresh chicken broth
1 Portion – Chicken, prepared in step one
1 quarter – Large yellow onion, sliced in ¼” slices, divided
3 Med – Shitake mushroom caps, sliced in ¼” slices, divided
2 – Green Onions, sliced thin on a sharp angle (bias)
1/4 Cup – Fresh arugula (or spinach)
2 Tbsp – Dry sake
2 Tbsp – Tamari sauce
2 Tsp – Agave nectar
½ Tsp – Sesame Oil
2 eggs
Nori (Dried seaweed) for garnish

In a small wok or pan (I used a non-stick egg skillet) bring the broth to a gentle boil over medium high heat. Stir in the sake, tamari, agave nectar and sesame oil, then add the onion and mushroom slices. Simmer until the onions are just becoming translucent (about 5 minutes) then add the chicken from step 1 along with the arugula.

Simmer one minute more stirring to ensure even heating. (Note: If you are skipping step one, add the chicken one minute after the onions and mushrooms and simmer until cooked through, then add the arugula for one minute more.)

Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat just enough to break the yolks and slightly mix the eggs. Stir in half the sliced green onions then gently pour the eggs evenly over the top of the simmering broth. Cook 30 seconds, then using chop sticks, stir once just enough to distribute the eggs evenly, cover and cook 30 seconds more while you spoon the rice into a bowl for serving.

(If necessary microwave the rice for 30 seconds to make sure it’s hot then) Gently slide the cooked mixture out of the pan and into the bowl over 1 to ½ cups steaming hot rice.  Cover the bowl with a saucer and serve as the eggs finish cooking in the hot bowl. Garnish with the remainder of the sliced green onions and crumbled or sliced dried nori.

Enjoy!

Randy