Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Apricots, Olives, and Almonds

Sometimes you have to take risks in life. Some men quit their jobs to start their own companies. Some climb the highest peaks or ride the rapidest rivers. I choose to serve dinner with ingredients the wifey and I dislike. 

Dinner is served.

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 onion, trimmed, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds in a spice bag
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons low-sodium chicken broth
(1) 7 3/4 ounce can chickpeas, drained
8 large green olives (condition to be debated in commentary)
1/4 cup dried apricots (condition to be debated in commentary)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

If necessary, remove skin and bones from chicken thighs.

In a the slow cooker, toss the chicken thighs with the onion, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaf and chicken broth, cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Stir in the chickpeas, olives and apricots, cover and cook until the chicken is tender and cooked through and the apricots are plump, about 1 hour. Remove the bay leaf and season the juices with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds in a pie plate and toast for about 7 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden.

Spoon the chicken and juices into shallow bowls, sprinkle with the toasted almonds and serve.

Check your nuts! Seriously. Testicular cancer is nothing to laugh at. Also check you nuts as you toast them. I checked them. They seemed almost done. I went pee. I get back and they are burnt and smoky. Luckily I had bought a half cup bag of almond slices!

None of my regular readers will be surprised to learn this is a Food & Wine recipe. The only meaningful chance I made from the original was halving the recipe. Two adults and a toddler, although we are all big eaters, probably should not polish off three pounds of chicken thighs in one sitting.

Hmm. Well that will not do!

Speaking of halving the recipe 1/4 cup of jumbo green olives is literally four olives. I doubled that somewhat arbitrarily. 

My one regret was I did not cut the apricots and olives. The tastes did not blend because of it. You tasted all chicken. Then all olive. If I revisit I will halve the apricots and quarter the olives (remember I used large olives, so if you are using smaller olives I would half).

Slice & dice and this is all good.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Middle Eastern Herb and Garlic Chicken

Well hello there! Long time no see. <insert obligatory President Trump jokeHow are the kids? Oh Susie got the lead in the school play? Well that is just fantastic. Good for her. I am sure it will be the best Annie Get Your Gun the high school theater has ever done!

Aside: are high schools even allowed to do Annie Get Your Gun these days? I mean it is a classic, but guns are bad m'kay.

Anyway, now that we have caught up after my long absence, let us dive into a recipe that I had pretty mixed feelings about. (I really know how to make a come back!)

My mom says I have INNER beauty, which she says is the best type of beauty.

So today we have a bit of an odd ball. The recipe below is how I made it. But I have noted how I will make it next time (and there may or may not be a next time). And if you have far too much free time I linked the slightly different original.

I got this recipe from the New York Times at some point. Probably from their daily briefings emails. Maybe I should ask those guys if the local high school theater can do Annie...

5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
6 garlic cloves, minced
Juice and zest of 2 lemons (or 1 if following my commentary)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste
2 tablespoons minced dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, more to taste
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (delete if following my commentary)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine chicken with all but 1 teaspoon of the grated garlic (save that teaspoon for the yogurt sauce), the zest and juice of 1 lemon, oil, parsley, thyme, oregano, the salt, and the sesame seeds. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat the broiler. Arrange a rack 3 to 4 inches from the heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread chicken out in a single layer. Broil chicken, turning halfway through cooking, until well colored and charred in spots, 4 to 7 minutes per side. Be careful that it doesn’t burn, but is cooked through.

While chicken cooks, place yogurt in a small bowl. Stir in the reserved grated garlic and lemon zest and season to taste with salt. (Or, you know, do not. Whatever works for you.)

Serve the chicken drizzled to taste with olive oil, remaining lemon juice to taste, black pepper, and sesame seeds with the yogurt alongside for dipping.

In short: SKIP THE SAUCE. The yogurt sauce was terrible. It was nothing but a overpowering lemon flavor. Seriously even using the sauce extremely sparingly it was too much. The wifey scraped what little she used of it off (luckily I served it separate). I made repeated disappointing attempts to use it in smaller and smaller quantities. Just ditch it. When you do that, you have a pretty solid recipe.

Now that I have said this, there may have been a chance I messed up the sauce (I think the juice of lemon #2 was in the yogurt). Still the chicken was great, so stop arguing with me and just make the chicken darn it!

It looks pretty while marinading. Just not so much in it's final form.

My grocery did not have boneless skinless chicken thighs that I could find and I was too lazy to ask. So I bought bone-in thighs complete with skin. With patience and a good knife, it was not too bad to convert the desired condition myself. That said I feel like the net effort of not asking, then de-boning was a loss.

Chicken: awesome. Sauce: <gag>.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Slow Cooker Garlic Ale Roast Beef Sandwiches

Apple shown for artistic reasons. What is artistic about an apple? Hell if I know, but damnit I did not take a picture without the apple so I need to make up some bs excuse... Er, I mean just leave me alone. You just do not understand my art!

One cool think about being on social media with your hobbies is people share. Before I had an social media cooking presence, I would get the occasional recipe from my mother. Once in a blue moon, I would get a cookbook as a gift. These days on the other hand, I get recipes, tips, hat tips, etc. on a regular basis.

So a week or two back my mother-in-law send me a recipe. At the time it sounded good, but I did not expect to make it. The wifey is not a huge beef person (as you may have previously noticed we eat a lot of chicken). Well I realized I had a roast in the freezer that was getting a little old.

So I decided to make this anyway and split it into a week's worth of lunches. This is a great "Sunday meal prep" kind of recipe. It is fairly low effort. It makes enough for several meals. It was pretty cheap for me too as I usually buy roasts when they are on sale and it does not need to be a great cut.

Waiting is the hardest part!

1 two-pound beef roast (a larger roast is fine if your slow cooker is bigger than mine)
season salt
black pepper
5 garlic cloves
1 red onion, sliced
1 cup Italian dressing (I used Olive Garden)
1 cup lite/light beer (Kentucky Kölsch, IC Lite, Hudy Delight, or in my case Miller Lite <shudder>)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Sprinkle both sides of the roast with season salt and pepper. Place the roast into a slow cooker. Place the garlic cloves, bay leaves, and the red onion on top of the roast. Then pour the Italian dressing and beer over the roast.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours (or 6 on high). Stir once half way through.

Discard bay leaves. Trim the fat and then shred the meat with 2 forks, smash the garlic with the back of a fork and stir the garlic into the shredded meat. Separate the onions and add to the meat as desired.

Strain about a three cups (I winged this part) of the juices to a pot and heat over high heat. Stirring frequently. Once a rolling boil is achieved, mix two teaspoons cornstarch with two teaspoons of water. Mix until a paste forms. Add to the boiling mixture. Continue to stir until the sauce becomes thick (five or ten minutes based on taste). Pour the sauce over the meat and onions.

Serve on bread with toasted cheese. This made me four hearty sandwiches.

I modified this recipe from the original a bit. The broad strokes are the same, but the some of the details are not. The link is above if you feel like noting the details. The big change is I added the sauce back in.

Creative license.

Do not be afraid to be generous with the season salt and pepper. I know nobody wants to over salt their food, but this is a big slab o' meat!

Look at that meat!

I will mention I specified the beer and Italian dressing. Why? Those can make a HUGE difference. Not all Italian dressings are even remotely the same. Plus I could I have used the bottle of Yards Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce I had lying around, but I did not want my roast to taste like a pine cone. 

I really hate when recipes do not specify beer. At least give me a general style. Nope, not here. Original recipe: "use your favorite". What kind of lazy writing is that? Seriously what kind of stupid advice is that anyway?!? No other ingredient would people say that. This recipe needs some vegetables. "Use your favorite"! Because there is no difference between broccoli or celery or a potato. Meat? Sure, "use your favorite" because a salmon fillet is interchangeable with brisket or a pork sausage. Can you tell this really annoys me?

While we are on the topic of the original recipe: when did a slider become a generic term for a small sandwich. Some of you may be thinking where did this come from? Well I edited out the word slider from the original recipe. A slider is a WHITE CASTLE HAMBURGER or equivalent. The original is a small sandwich. Goddamn heathens.

And another thing: what is wrong the <generation>? Why do they not understand that <problem> can be fixed simply by <over simplification of problem>?!?

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest!

Honestly there's not much to this recipe. Do no over think this one. Meat, seasoning, and sauce go in a slow cooker. Cook. Shred. Eat.

Good stuff. Do not skip the sauce/onions step though. The onions took on a very different flavor and the three together really made this a winner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Buffalo Chicken (Optional) Soup

2017-03-08 Edit: derpy, derpy, derp. This is a repeat of this blog entry with the discussion of optional chicken added. 

To meat or not to meat: that is the question!

There is something unnatural about making anything "Buffalo" vegetarian in my humble opinion. Buffalo chicken wings, Buffalo CHICKEN dip, Buffalo CHICKEN soup, etc. The words Buffalo and chicken just belong together. Anything else is an unholy abomination!

While I am at it, you know what else is unnatural: Velveeta "cheese product". Velveeta happens to be a key ingredient to this recipe so let us get unnatural together!

Anyway today's story goes like this: the wifey was having a bunch of new hires over. She does not know of any food restrictions but thought there might be a vegetarian in the mix. (Aside: LIES! There was not.) She asked that I be accommodating to vegetarian. Now as opinionated as I am about food, Doctor Who, or the terrible state of modern driving, I always try to accommodate reasonable food restrictions. So I decided to give my beloved Buffalo CHICKEN soup recipe the vegetarian once over. The original recipe (ok the original, original recipe is linked here) is list below, with the minor vegetarian changes noted in parentheses.

2 bunches green onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1⁄4 cup butter
1⁄4 cup flour
3⁄4 cup milk
3⁄4 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth)
2 cups diced cooked chicken (neglected for vegetarian)
1⁄2 cup Frank's RedHot
4 ounces Velveeta cheese
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne
1⁄2 teaspoon celery salt
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic salt

Sauté (medium to medium-low heat) the green onions and celery in the butter until the celery is tender.

Stir in flour until smooth and slightly golden.

Slowly add milk and broth. Stopping to mix thoroughly as you go.

Add remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until cheese has melted and well mixed.

"Come on baby, just the tip?" Er I meant to say just not the tip. I used the whole green onions except the rooty tip.

This quantity of Frank's and cayenne makes for a pretty spicy soup. I recommend reducing the Frank's down to 1/3 cup to reduce the heat if desired. That said, it a critical flavor component. Without Frank's this is not the same soup. So if you want something with no heat, move along.

The celery adds some crunch to this recipe. Based on your tastes that could be a good or a bad thing. Respond according. By which I mean add/reduce, chop bigger/smaller pieces of celery, etc to your taste, not send me your pro-celery socialist propaganda.

Just for my own curosity I just Googled "pro-celery socialist propaganda". Sadly it was entirely less interesting than I had hoped. Anyone out there a graphic artist who wants to work me up a new logo? I cannot pay you, but it would be great exposure. <wink, wink>

I have tweeked this one way or the other plenty of times: add some garlic instead of the garlic salt, more or less celery, more or less chicken, etc. It is a pretty forgiving recipe and can easily be modified to personal taste.

I always buy the big block of Velveeta. DO NOT DO THAT. I think it is two pounds or something. 

By the way, this freezes well. Make a double batch. No: octuple since you bought the big block after I told you not to!

The original recipe is amazing and I love it. ♥♥ <obligatory Doctor Who nod>

The vegetarian modification... did not taste any different. Let's face it when you have that much Velveeta and Frank's a bit of chicken is not going to sway the taste one way or the other.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Creamy Corn Pasta With Basil

CORN! But more about that later.

So with the new house, I planted some cilantro and some basil. No real plan honestly. It just sounded like a good idea at the time. We had grown cilantro at the last place and I figured I should expand. The problem is I did not have any recipes in mind for the copious amounts of basil. 

So the obvious answer is pesto. Great fine. I should make pesto. But I am a non-conformist at heart, so fuck your pesto. Instead I made this!

Mind you, I am a practical non-conformist. This used a tiny amount of basil compared to what I have. So I should probably still make pesto...

Sea salt
12 ounces dry pasta (the original recipe called for orecchiette or farfalle, I used rotini)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (keep the whites and greens separate)
2 cups CORN kernals (about 3 large ears shucked)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus lots more for garnish
1/3 cup finely torn basil
1 chicken breast fully cooked and diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain, reserving about a 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat; add scallion whites and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and all but 1/4 cup CORN; simmer until CORN is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, transfer to a blender, and purée mixture until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a thick but pourable texture.

Heat the pan over high heat. Add butter and let melt. Add reserved 1/4 cup CORN and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. (It’s O.K. if the butter browns, that deepens the flavor.) Add the CORN purée and cook for 30 seconds to heat and combine the flavors.

Reduce heat to medium. Add pasta and 1/4 cup the reserved pasta cooking water, tossing to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add a little more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in 1/4 cup of the scallion greens, the Parmesan, the herbs, 1/4 teaspoon pepper (less to taste), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and chicken. Sprinkle with lemon juice and remaining olive oil (less to taste). Garnish with more scallions and basil.

I eliminated red pepper flakes. I added chicken. Why because these things please the wifey. Happy wife = happy life. Anyway the original recipe can be found here.

I bought two ears for fresh sweet corn. I wanted fresh because this was using fresh basil from my garden picked about an hour and half before dinner. This is going to be all fresh damnit!

Good Intentions


I cook a fair bit and I like to cook weird things. That said, pasta sauce is diary based, oil based, tomato based, stock based, etc. A corn based sauce weirds me out. 

If you are still reading at this point, I just really like CORN. Growing up there was a local farm that had excellent sweet. Or more likely it was pretty average sweet corn, but childhood memories make me have an irrational like for CORN, so CORN!

Simply delicious. Easily the best thing I have made recently. Make sure not to skimp on the cheese though.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crispy Tofu and Ginger Dressing with Bagged Asian Salad

You might think this is healthy, but you do not see the pool of dressing from this angle.
The wifey, the kiddo, and I have moved. Woo. Home ownership. American dream. Ra, ra, and other stuff. 

Pro: I have a kitchen that is much larger and my own. Con: this thing.

Small AND uneven heat, what is not to love?
So cooking anything beyond frozen food or three/four item recipes has been limited. But we are all moved in now (read about fifty percent of boxes are unpacked). 

Walking through the grocery the other day I decided I needed to get my mojo back with an IMPULSE PURCHASE!!! ..of tofu. Um? Behold me being risqué

14 oz block of extra firm tofu
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) cornstarch, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
peanut oil

Ginger dressing (source):
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons prepared ginger root (not pickled)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey

Store bought bag of Asian salad mix (get one with crunchies, because yum)

Remove tofu from packaging. Place between two thick layers of paper towels. Place something heavy on top. (See picture in commentary). Allow to sit for a few.

Mix salt and cornstarch.

Cube tofu to desired size. Toss in the cornstarch/salt mix (do this in two batches).

Heat peanut oil to medium-high. Add coated tofu. Rotate as sides get golden brown. Remove when browned on all sides.

Ginger dressing:
Mix all ingredients.

Microwave until warm, ie the honey is less viscous, and mix again.

Serve warm.


POUR DRESSING ON SALAD. Toss that salad.



I did the tofu in two batches of coatings and two batches of frying. The coating started to lump hence the second batch. The frying because of the size of the pan I was using.

I did some reading about cooking tofu online before hand (largely because I bought it and sat on it for a few weeks out of laziness). That is the source of the pressing of the tofu.  Apparently tofu is pretty wet. I really have no idea. I just ran with it. Although if I had literally sat on it for a few weeks, I suppose it would not have been an issue.

Because... the internet TOLD ME TO!!!
I have to admit one of the things that excited me about working with tofu was the idea I could make perfect cubes in great uniformity (I make no apology, I am an engineer damn it). Well I was let down. 

Look at this lumpy non-uniform piece of edible protein!
Make sure the dressing is stored in a container with a solid seal. I had to shake the ever lovin' bejesus out of it. Stirring/whisking just was not cutting it. 

The tofu was incredibly easy to make and is suitable for all sorts of applications. The salad dressing was a little fussy with the honey melt / general separation. Still it was very good. Plus the whole thing was pretty damn easy. I would give another go. I would consider adding some more crunchy things next time to give it a little more texture. 

I'm not the only one who wanted cubed food.