Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cambodian Red Curry Chicken Wings

Some changes are coming to Lisa is Cooking. Big changes, to me anyway. I’m moving out of the kitchen where I’ve been cooking for fourteen years. I’ll be leaving behind the spot on our back porch where I’ve shot most of the photos that have appeared on this blog. The gas range with the oven I’m completely used to will be a thing of the past. We’re packing up and moving over, not too far away, to a temporary residence while our house gets rebuilt. It should take less than a year but probably not much less. In the meantime, I’ll be cooking in a completely unfamiliar kitchen with even less countertop space than I have now. I haven’t even figured out yet where I’ll take food photos or where I'll knead bread or where to put the food processor. It’ll be an adventure, or that’s what I’m telling myself. I won’t be able to resist sharing updates about the house project along the way. When it’s done, I’ll be moving back into another different kitchen. This future kitchen will be a little less unfamiliar since I designed it and know where everything will go. I just haven’t stood in it yet. And, the appliances will be new and different, but they’ll be ones of my choosing. I can’t wait to get acquainted. So, I apologize in advance if it takes me a bit to get situated in my temporary kitchen and if my photos look weirder than ever for a year. What won’t be changing here at Lisa is Cooking is the cooking itself. I’ll still be trying all sorts of dishes from every different source I encounter. I’ll still be whipping up things like these Cambodian Red Curry Chicken Wings that I saw in the July issue of Food and Wine magazine. The recipe is from Edward Lee, and it was inspired by the food from the restaurant Senmonorom in Lowell, Massachusetts. I made a minor change to the cooking process, but that’s the kind of change that’s expected. 

You begin by cooking the wings in a saute pan on the stovetop. When they are browned on all sides, they should be transferred to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Then, the sauce was started with shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and ginger being added to the hot pan. After a few minutes, dried chiles like chiles de arbol, soy sauce, fish sauce, cumin, coriander, paprika, nutmeg, and turmeric were added and cooked until fragrant. Last, coconut milk was added, and the sauce mixture was poured into the blender to be pureed. The pureed sauce was returned to the saute pan. This is where I made a little change. Rather than adding the browned chicken wings to the sauce to simmer for a few minutes, I placed the wings on a baking sheet, basted them with the sauce, and placed them under the broiler. I had a vision of these wings being sticky and coated with the sauce while still having bits of crisp, browned skin. I opted for the high heat of the broiler instead of leaving the wings sitting in the sauce. After basting on both sides and allowing the sauce to achieve a lovely state of stickiness, I served the extra sauce drizzled over the top and as a dipping sauce on the side. 

As described in the magazine, the flavors are less spicy than Thai but deliciously layered. Served with limes for squeezing and some simple rice and vegetables, this was a fun meal. You have to accept that your fingers will be gooey with sauce, but some of the best meals start with that acceptance. Now, I’m off to pack up more of my kitchen things and get this adventure underway. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Three-Cheese Rye Biscuits

The new book Huckleberry, from the Bakery and Cafe in Santa Monica of the same name, by Zoe Nathan is easy for me to like. As I read my review copy, page after page held something I wanted to try baking, flavors I wanted to taste, and breakfasts I knew would be delicious. I’m easily entertained by the thought of baking lots of different types of breakfast treats, but seriously, I wanted to grab the mixing bowls and bake every single muffin recipe in the first chapter. It starts with Cooca Nib Muffins with Dark Chocolate Glaze and goes on to include Lemon Cornmeal Muffins with Lemon Glaze, Gluten-Free Vegan Banana Chocolate Muffins, Fig-Brown Sugar Muffins, and more. It’s not just the baked goods and breakfast dishes in the book that appealed to me either. There’s also a nice mix of various flours and whole grains that appear in several recipes. But, those wholesome, whole grains aren’t there just to be healthy ingredients. They’re added for flavor and texture, and there’s no lack of decadence in these recipes. There are Brown Rice Quinoa Pancakes, Multigrain Pancakes, and Ricotta Griddlecakes. Then, there are chapters for Sandwiches, Hearty plates with an Egg on Top, and Coffee and Other Beverages. In deciding where to start, I put my sweet tooth on hold for just a moment while I mixed up the Three-Cheese Rye Biscuits. Despite the rye flour and whole wheat flour, these are anything but a health-food kind of biscuit. They’re buttery and tender with cream cheese and grated cheddar and parmesan. 

Step one was to combine the dry ingredients which include rye flour, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Next, cold pieces of butter were worked into the flours followed by cream cheese that was worked in in the same way. Then, the grated cheddar and parmesan were added with buttermilk. The dough was transferred to a work surface and briefly kneaded to bring it together. To form the biscuits, an ice cream scoop was used. After scooping each biscuit onto a baking sheet, I flattened them a little to prevent domed tops. The sheets pans with biscuits were placed in the freezer for a couple of hours before baking. I only baked half of them at first since, once frozen, the raw biscuits can remain in the freezer for up to a month. They went straight from the freezer to the oven with a quick stop for an application of an egg wash and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. 

If someone offered me a whole grain rye biscuit, this is not what I would expect to receive. These biscuits were as indulgent as any I’ve tasted previously. The cheeses and crunchy salt sprinkled on top add savory flavor. They were perfect with a vegetable scramble for brunch. Some breakfast or brunch dishes in our not-too-distant future will probably include Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan and Eggs, Vegetarian Croque, Lentils with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Sunny-Side-Up Eggs, and lots of muffins. I think I need to get back to the kitchen now. 

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Vietnamese-Style Portobello Mushrooms

This was our conversation: Me- “I cooked from a new book for dinner tonight. The book is The Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook (review copy), and it includes recipes and writing related to grilling from the entire history of The Times.” Kurt- “A grilling book! What did you grill?” Me- “Vietnamese-Style Portobello Mushrooms.” Kurt- “You have a new grilling book…and, you made mushrooms?” Me- “Of course!” His hopes for a steak off the grill were dashed, but he did enjoy the portobellos. The book does include plenty of recipes for meats with an entire chapter for Burgers, one for Beef and Veal, one for Pork, another just for Lamb, a Poultry chapter, and one for Fish and Shellfish. But, there are also Starters, Vegetables and Sides, Desserts and Breads, and Marinades Rubs and Sauces. I also have Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook, and I haven’t done a page by page search to find out how many recipes are included in both books. One difference between the two books, though, is that this grilling book includes writing in addition to recipes. The first story is about Mr. Gunning’s Barbecue in Mount Vernon which appeared on March 30 in 1887. There are stories and accompanying recipes from over the years from writers and contributors like Craig Claiborne, Pierre Franey, Jane Nickerson, Steven Raichlen, Florence Fabricant, Mark Bittman, Julia Moskin, Sam Sifton, and many more. I particularly enjoyed the story by Sam Sifton about hog roasting in a La Caja China which is a Cuban roasting box. He attempted to track down the reason for the name (the explanation is that “Cubans like to call anything that is unusual or clever Chinese”), and in the process found out about other cultures that roast pigs in boxes. All of this interest resulted in a mojo-brined, roasted pig served with black beans and rice and plenty of rum, and I ended up craving Cuban flavors after reading about it. My Cuban feast had to wait because a few pages later, I was taken with Mark Bittman’s description of various grilled vegetables including Portobello mushrooms. 

I want to mention what I think is an important ingredient in all grilling recipes, and that’s the smoke from the hardwood coals. The convenience of gas grills is great, and I sometimes just grill in a grill-pan inside for nice char marks. But, natural hardwood coals impart added flavor to grilled food like nothing else. With these grilled portobellos, it was an integral part of the resulting dish. To start, a marinade was made with peanut oil, lime juice, chopped mint, minced Thai chile, and fish sauce. I spooned half the marinade over the cleaned mushroom caps and left them to sit while the grill was prepped. Once on the grill, the mushrooms were brushed with more of the marinade as they cooked. They need almost 20 minutes of grilling over medium heat to cook all the way through and become tender. After taking them off the grill, I let the mushrooms sit for a few minutes before slicing them and serving them garnished with sliced chiles and chopped green onion and mint. I served the sliced Portobellos with a Vietnamese rice noodle salad inspired by one found on David Lebovitz’s site. I simplified the salad by only adding cucumber, carrot, chiles, and baked tofu and topped it with chopped peanuts and fried shallots. 

The mushrooms were loaded with flavor from the marinade combined with smoky flavor from the grill. Some of the other recipes from the story about grilled vegetables were Chili-Rubbed Jicama Steaks with Queso Fresco, Teriyaki Cabbage Steaks, Curry-Rubbed Sweet Potato Planks, and Miso-Glazed Eggplant Slices. I want to try those on the grill too. And, yes, I will eventually turn to the meat chapters to grill something just for Kurt.  

Vietnamese-Style Portobello Mushrooms 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from The Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook.
Time: 20 minutes Yield: 4 servings 

1⁄4 cup peanut oil 
1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnish 
1 fresh hot red chili (like Thai), seeded and minced 
1 tablespoon fish sauce 
1⁄2 teaspoon sugar 
Salt and lots of black pepper 
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed 

1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill until quite hot and put rack about 4 inches from flame. Mix together oil, lime juice, mint, chili, fish sauce and sugar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush mushrooms all over with about half of this mixture. 

2. Grill mushrooms with tops of their caps away from heat until they begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Brush with remaining marinade and turn. Grill until tender and nicely browned all over, 5 to 10 minutes more. Garnish with more mint and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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