Serves 2 (American sized portion)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time 10-12 minutes
Tongs or slotted spoon/spatula
Deep sided pan or deep fryer
Kitchen Shears or sharp knife
Heat proof bowl
Kitchen thermometer (if not using a deep fryer)
10-12 whole chicken wings jointed
1 liter of oil (sunflower, vegetable, canola but not olive oil)
Buffalo Wing Sauce:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup Frank’s Red Hot
Dash Worcester Sauce
Heat oil in pan to 375F or 180C
While oil is heating, place wings on a paper towel and dry thoroughly (if there is any water on the wings it will cause serious popping). Once oil is at the correct temperature, carefully add the chicken pieces ensuring that they do not touch. You may need to fry the chicken in multiple batches. Fry for 10 – 12 minutes or until skin is crisp and chicken is cooked through.
While the chicken is frying in a large heat proof bowl add all sauce ingredients. Set aside.
When chicken is cooked remove from oil with tongs and place on paper towel to drain. While the chicken is draining, place sauce ingredients in microwave for 1 minute or until butter is completely melted. Remove from microwave and stir and toss chicken into bowl. Toss chicken around in sauce until completely coated.
Serve wings immediately.
Is it weird that I love plain white rice? When I say plain, I mean rice boiled – that’s it. I like the taste of good quality rice. I’m not talking about Uncle Ben’s boil in bag, I’m talking a good basmati or Thai jasmine rice. When it’s cooked well, they’ve got a very unique flavour that is amazing. I know that rice nutrition is next to zero but I would eat it every day if I could. My husband thinks it’s weird that when I finish a meal at a Chinese restaurant, I actually take a spoon and eat the remaining rice from the bowl. If there’s no more rice left, I’ll order a bowl of plain rice just for me to eat. OK, I recognize this is a bit weird but hey, that’s me.
Rice, although it seems simple, is notoriously hard to get right. My friend Gail, who is the queen of microwave cooking once taught me how to make rice in the microwave (yeah you can actually do that). She made it seem absolutely simple until I actually tried it. The one step she neglected to share with me was that you’ve got to turn the microwave to 50% power (really important step). When I opened the microwave, I had a bowl of hard, black, glassy goo. Not only did I discover that it is possible to char food in the microwave, but I also learned that burnt rice really stinks and the smell doesn’t go away for months. Needless to say, I never tried that again and I perfected making rice on the stove.
So here are a few ways with rice because, although I love plain rice and can eat it everyday, I’m probably the only non-Asian person that can say that.
Preparation: 1 minute
Cooking time: 20 minutes
1 cup white rice
2 cups water
Rinse rice under cold running water until the water is no longer cloudy. Add rice and water in pot and place on high heat. Once rice is boiling, stir, cover pot tightly with lid and reduce heat to low. Do not remove the lid and allow to cook for 15 minutes (this is a good time to get other parts of your meal started). At 15 minutes check to see if the rice is cooked and water is absorbed. If the rice appears wet, place the cover back on pot and continue to cook for 5 mints more. At this point, if there is still water waiting to be absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and remove lid and let stand. The rice will continue to absorb the water and any excess will begin evaporating.
Beans and Rice
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
1 cup white rice (rinsed)
1 10oz can of beans (kidney beans, black beans, gungoa peas are good options)
¼ cup diced onion
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/8 tsp dry)
1 cup chicken broth
1 clove chopped garlic
1 – 2 tsp butter (or 1-2 tsp olive oil)
Drain the beans over a measuring cup that can hold at least 2 cups of liquid. In this same measuring cup, add chicken broth until the total liquid measures 2 cups (if you’re a little short, add additional chicken broth or just plain water). Set the liquid and beans to the side for a moment.
Heat the butter on medium high heat in a small pot (with a lid). Once the butter is melted, add onions and garlic and cook until onion is clear and shiny (being careful not to burn the garlic). Add rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter/onion mix. Add beans and liquid to the pot, stir and drop thyme sprigs on top. Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 without removing the lid. If the rice appears wet, place the cover back on pot and continue to cook for 5 mints more.
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
1 cup white rice (rinsed)
¼ cup diced onion
2 handfuls (about 1 cup) chopped cilantro/coriander
2 cup vegetable broth
1 clove chopped garlic
1 – 2 tsp butter (or 1-2 tsp olive oil)
Heat the butter on medium high heat in a small pot (with a lid). Once the butter is melted, add onions and garlic and cook until onion is clear and shiny (being careful not to burn the garlic). Add rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter/onion mix. Add the vegetable broth. Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 without removing the lid. Remove lid and add the coriander/cilantro to the pan and stir. If the rice is still wet, cover and continue to cook. If the rice is the right consistency, cover the pan and remove from the heat for 5 minutes.
I know you read my blog and immediately went out and bought a beautiful free range bird for way more than you really wanted to pay. Now what do you do with the left overs? It would be a shame to let that tasty tender meat go to waste. Well today for dinner I transformed that bird into a fabulous meal.
Chicken Bacon Apple Salad
Prep time & cook time: 15 minutes
6 skinny rashers of bacon
1 package salad leaves (washed and dried)
1.5 cups diced cooked chicken (from that chicken you roasted)
1 large apple sliced thin
1/2 red onion sliced
handful crumbled blue cheese
handful chopped walnuts
4 tbls olive oil
2 tbls balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp Italian herb mix
salt & pepper to taste
Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring the pan to a boil and allow the eggs to boil for 1 to 2 minutes cover
In another pan, cook bacon on medium high heat until crisp.
While the bacon is cooking combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
Crumble the cooked bacon over the salad.
In a separate bowl, combine salad dressing ingredients, mix well and pour over the salad.
Toss the salad well and serve.
This salad was delicious. But really isn’t impossible for anything to taste bad when it includes bacon? The blue cheese makes it absolutely perfect. Try to use salad leaves like spinach or arugala (rocket). Iceberg doesn’t add any flavor and it doesn’t really have a lot of health benefit. Remember to closer to a leaf it looks the better it is for you. This salad is great for lunch or to take on a picnic (just leave the dressing on the side until you’re ready to eat).
OK, I have a secret. I’ve been asked to leave a Chinese buffet. No, I didn’t go flying Nikes over head like when Jazz annoyed Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It was more like Martin pushing Pam out the front door “Get to steppin’” I’m not proud of my gluttony but I really like Chinese food.
You see, at the buffet I have a process, first round, scope out the offering. Then I have to devise the plan of action because you can’t just mix everything on your plate. I’ve got to get the flavour ratios just right and, note to Dad, sweet and sour sauce can’t go on everything. A proper balance of sweet and salty and sour, bitter and savoury has to be attained and I’ve got to try everything.
So, on my fifth or sixth plate (I mean full plate not just a little spoonful of this and that) the waitresses began to hover, circling like wolves ready to pounce on a defenceless baby deer. One by one every few minutes they’d come to the table, eyes rolling, to ask in thickly accented English “You finished yet?” (Annoyed translates well in any language.) To this question I happily answer, “No” and continue savouring ever morsel of Chinese goodness while receiving the evil eye from a pack of angry silk clad waitresses. Then the next comes huffing, hands on hips to try to budge me.
The serious buffet waster (aka my two plates only Mom), who had finished eating 30 minutes before the army began to descend, finally whispered to me “I think they want you to leave.” But I hadn’t even had dessert yet!
So, to avoid more embarrassing moments at the buffet, I’m learning to make my own Chinese at home. My teacher and best friend (in my imagination) is Ching-He Huang, host of Chinese Food in Minutes in the UK and Easy Chinese – San Francisco in the US. Here is one of my favourites from Ching plus a one of my own to show just how easy and quick Chinese food can be.
Spicy Chicken and Cashews
Adapted from Ching-He Huang‘s Chilli Chicken & Cashews
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook in: 5 – 7 minutes
Wok or heavy guage frying pan that will hold heat
Wooden spoon or spatula
Small bowl for mixing cornstarch and marinating chicken
1 tsp corn starch/cornflour
1 tbls cold water
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1″ chunks
½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbls peanut or sunflower oil
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp chilli bean paste
1 red chilli chopped and seeded (keep seeds if you want it really hot)
1 tbls Shaohsing rice wine
1 small pack of roasted salted cashew nuts (you can substitute peanuts)
1 tbls light soy sauce
I suggest preparing all ingredients and lining them up near the wok. This dish goes really quickly so it’s important to have everything right at your fingertips.
Mix the water into the cornstarch (the water has to be cold and it has to be added to the cornstarch not the other way around to avoid lumps). Season with the 5 spice powder and set aside.
Heat a wok on high heat until it starts to smoke. Add the oil and when it begins to smoke add the peppercorns, chilli bean paste and chilli. Lift the wok off the heat and toss the mix around for 10 – 15 seconds. Place the wok back on the heat for another 10 – 15 seconds so the wok can heat back up and then add the chicken. Let the chicken cook for a minute before stirring then add the rice wine. Mix it all together and then let the chicken cook until it turns white (about 4 – 5 minutes).
Once chicken is cooked through, turn off heat add soy sauce and lime juice.
Serve with steamed rice and Pak Choi in Oyster Sauce.
Pak Choi in Oyster Sauce
Created by S. Cottom
Prep in 5 minutes
Cook in 3 minutes
1 tbls oil (peanut, vegetable or sunflower)
4 bulbs pak choi (stalks separated from leaves and cleaned)
1 garlic clove chopped
1 tbls soy bean paste
2 tbls oyster sauce
Separate the stalks of the pak choi from the leaves. Heat oil in a wok or heavy gauge frying pan until smoking. Add garlic and fry for 2 -3 seconds, add stalks of pak choi and stir fry. Splash with water to create steam to cook stalks (repeat if necessary). Stir fry for 1-2 minutes then add leaves, soy bean paste and oyster sauce. Stir fry for 20-30 seconds until slightly wilted.
There are times in my life when I become a bit obsessive compulsive. Like my never-ending quest for an afro (I refuse to believe that I can’t have a big round afro like every other girl I know and that one day that patch of completely straight hair will turn curly). Or when I decided to learn how to knit and proceeded to knit everyone that I know with a head a hat. I get that way sometimes. When I decide I’m interested, I become an expert and won’t stop until I’ve conquered this week’s epic challenge.
Well my most recent OCD adventure was tea smoked chicken. Yes, for some odd and unexplainable reason I decided to turn my kitchen into a smoker because if they can do it at Cha Cha Moon (my favorite Chinese restaurant), by golly, so can I. I was going to smoke anything that might remotely taste interesting. Like with my other OCD attacks I turned to the best resource for learning any vague and obscure craft – the internet. I spent days scouring the net for method, ingredients, marinades and all things tea smoked chicken because I would be the next tea smoked chicken master chef.
All the blogs touted how simple tea smoking at home could be. A simple concoction of tea, rice and sugar was all I needed to turn plain old chicken wings into a smoky sensation. I am a pretty good cook so how hard could it be? I started off by lining my wok with aluminum foil. If I hooked that thing to my TV I could probably watch the evening news in Beijing. I added in the amazing smoking agents: uncooked jasmine rice, jasmine tea, and some sugar. Note: No one in the blogosphere knows what the sugar does, everyone thinks it’s pointless but every recipe called for it so I too drank that Kool-Aid too.
We were super excited when the contraption started to smoke. We added the wire grate and quickly covered the contraption with foil. Smoke began seeping out of everywhere. We frantically covered all the gaps with sheet upon sheet of foil and the exhaust fan was struggling to keep up. All that could be heard was the metallic crunch of foil as we tried to pinch the seams of our smoke leaving ship. Luckily we had a rare 60 degree day in London so we opened the window to keep from suffocating. After the frantic ripping of and scrunching of foil, we finally plugged all the holes. Who knew cooking could be so harrowing.
After 20 minutes of smoking and 30 minutes of resting, the milky white, slimy skin of the chicken, that we nearly asphyxiated ourselves to make, underwhelmed us. I was, however, prepared for this becuase many of the bloggers warned that a tan in the broiler might be necessary. I put the sickly looking things in the “grill” (at this point I must add a side note on the “grill” which is supposed to be the broiler but since we don’t have gas ovens in the UK, it’s just the electric heating element of the oven getting extra hot and red and pretending to really do something) for 30 minutes. This did nothing but put a little beige on them. They went from pale white to “light skinneded” which wasn’t much better. But every cook knows that it’s not what it looks like, it’s how it tastes that’s important.
Survey says…ehhh. A big fat X. They were horrible! I ate two (the second one only to confirm that they were actually as bad as I thought). I tried to rationalize it but in the end, I decided I’d be better off with leftovers. No flavor (despite marinating in soy sauce, ginger, garlic and rice wine for two hours) and the skin was still slimy despite being broiled (I told you that “grill” thing doesn’t work). Yes, I know I made them look tasty but the verdict – EPIC FAIL! I took the photo before I actually ate them and this proves that you can’t even believe what you see sometimes. The other lesson is that even the best of us have a bad dish every now and then…even little miss OCD. Tea smoked chicken has won this round but I’m going back to my corner to regroup and next time, I’ll come back swinging. This story isn’t over yet.
If I have learned anything since moving to Europe it’s that Olive Garden is not Italian food. I know we like to think that we’re really getting a taste of Tuscany but, take it from me, it’s closer to a taste of Tucson than anything authentically Italian.
Mike and I fell in love with Italy the first time we went. It was amazing how the flavors that we loved in America, like spaghetti Bolognese, lasagna and pizza were so drastically different from what we were used to. At home, Ragu and Prego make our spaghetti sauce not Mamma back in the kitchen. We pretend that we can taste a sweet hint of vine ripened tomatoes when in fact it’s just a bit of corn syrup and flavoring mixed in with the tomato paste. But in Italy, in the café on the corner and in most homes, chefs and grandmas alike make fresh pasta and sauce early in the morning and allowed to simmer slowly until lunch time. You can taste the pride that the chef put into making each bite a perfect Italian experience. No matter where we went in Rome, the first bite I took of every dish my eyes would close, my shoulders would relax , and a chorus of mmm’s would escape my lips as the pure bliss of pasta goodness washed over me.
Two Italian dishes stand out as my favorite. Spaghetti carbonara is the first. We went to a tiny restaurant in Pisa (as in Leaning Tower of…) where there was a man whose sole job was to make pizza and bread sticks. If he’s off sick, no pizza or bread sticks for anyone that day. He would walk around the restaurant dropping hot bread sticks into your basket while pizzas were baking in the clay wood burning stove. The carbonara was so good that I now refuse to eat it anywhere else and I don’t make it anymore because, quite frankly, my version is sh*t compared to it. It was creamy and eggy, and sweet and salty with pancetta all at once…just amazing.
Another one of my favorites is very different in Italy than what we’re accustomed to in America. At home layer upon layer of gooey cheese and drippy sauce are what we think of as lasagna. A dish that, after dinner, has been known to make more than a few pop open that button on the jeans. But in Italy, it’s a surprisingly light dish with only a couple of layers of ricotta, tomato sauce separated by egg pasta and covered in a wonderfully lovely cheese sauce. Unlike carbonara, I have figured out how to make this lasagna and it’s pretty darn close to what we had in Italy. (Mike has told me that I can’t take the old school lasagna out of the repertoire though.) This is a perfect dish for entertaining because, although there are lots of steps, it can be assembled ahead of time and popped in the oven before the guests arrived. Served with rocket (arugula) and parmesan salad and garlic bread you’ll feel like you’ve just stepped into a cobbled side street in Rome.
Spicy Turkey Lasagna
Prep time – 45 minutes
Cook time – 45 minutes
1 lb Ground turkey
1 tsp Chili flakes (more or less to taste)
½ tsp Sage
1 tsp Italian herb mix
¼ tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Salt
¼ tsp Paprika
¼ tsp Black pepper
3 tbls Olive oil
10 -20 Fresh basil leaves (about a handful)
1 Clove garlic, chopped
2 12 – 14 oz cans chopped tomatoes
½ glass white wine
1 tsp sugar
¼ cup water
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup Butter
1 Shallot, chopped
¼ cup Flour
1 cup Chicken broth
1 cup Milk
1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp White pepper
3 cups Ricotta cheese
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 375(180C)
Heat a large high sided frying pan on medium high heat and add ground turkey and all other ingredients for meat filling. Cook until meat has turned white with no pink showing. Place meat in a bowl and set aside to use later.
In the same pan used for meat filling (do not clean the pan), add olive oil and heat on medium heat. Once hot add basil leaves and garlic and cook gently (do not burn garlic) for a minute. Add canned tomatoes then white wine and heat until bubbling. Once bubbling, boil for at least one minute to burn off alcohol. Add sugar and water and then stir. Add salt and pepper to taste, place lid on the pan and turn heat down to low to allow the sauce simmer while carrying on the rest of the recipe.
In a separate sauce pan, melt butter on medium high heat. Add shallots and cook slowly until they become clear (about 3 minutes) being careful not to burn them. Once soft, add ¼ of the flours, mix with shallot and butter. Repeat this step by adding ¼ of the flour at a time until all flour is added. Mix until flour turns a yellowy beige. Begin adding chicken broth very slowly while continuously stirring the pan.
Once all broth is added, slowly add milk stirring continuously. Once milk is added, add ½ of mozzarella. Stir until cheese is melted. Melt the remaining half of mozzarella in the sauce. Add parmesan and stir until melted.
In a bowl, add ricotta, egg, and parmesan and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Putting it all together
Turn off all pans. Bruch 2 or 3 tablespoons of the tomato sauce across the bottom of the baking pan. Place a layer of lasagna sheets at the bottom of the pan. Add ½ of meat filling, ½ of ricotta filling. Cover with ½ of the remaining tomato sauce and then place another layer of lasagna sheets on top.
Repeat these steps with the second half of ingredients. Cover the entire dish with the entire pot of white sauce.
When done, remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with rocket (arugula) and parmesan salad by mixing 1 bag of rocket, ¼ cup shaved parmesan, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.