I thought I’d make my first video. This one is just showing you how I separate chicken wings into wing dings or drummettes. You’ll notice i’m a headless chicken but that’s because my hair was looking crazy when I decided to do this. Let me know if you find it useful.
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.
This year, 21 February is Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Fastnact Day! Historically, this is the day that Christians would eat all the rich food in their cupboards like eggs, butter and milk in preparation for the fasting of Lent. In the UK we use it as an excuse to celebrate the pancake as well.
In the US, pancakes are thick and fluffy and melty and served with fruit compote (as in Rooty Tooty Fresh & Fruity), whip cream and most likely maple syrup (or all of the above if you’re being really fat at IHOP)but in the UK, pancakes are thin and flimsy, resembling French crepes, served sweet or savory. Interestingly, in the UK flapjacks are oatmeal granola bars and not pancakes (so confusing).
Having been to Paris, where you can buy crepes on just about every corner, I’ve learned that they are great for breakfast, lunch or dinner and they never get boring. Throw in some scrambled eggs and bacon and you’ve got a handy breakfast you can eat on your commute. Try sliced bananas and Nutella for a tastier alternative to toast. Stuff the pancake with ham, cheese and sautéed mushrooms and onions for a quick lunch or dinner. Add strawberries in sugar syrup rolled up with a dollop of whipped cream and you’ve got an easy dessert for your dinner party. The only limit is your imagination.
Crepes (AKA English Pancakes)
Prep Time 5 minutes + 1 hour to chill
Cooking time 10 minutes
Makes four 10-inch crepes
A large non-stick pan (at least 12 inches in diameter)
A ladle or ¼ cup measuring cup
Wax paper to separate cooked crepes
A large non-metallic bowl and spoon for mixing
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
½ cup water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp butter melted
Mix all ingredients in bowl in the order listed. To avoid lumps, add milk to flour slowly while continuously stirring. Add the butter to the mixture in the same way to avoid cooking the batter. Once mixed, cover and place in fridge for an hour (or make the night before).
When the batter is ready, heat the pan to medium high heat. When pan is hot, ladle or spoon about ¼ cup of batter. Pick up the pan and swirl batter around so that there is a thin layer of batter across the whole pan.
When the edges look dry and there are bubbles across the entire surface, it’s time to flip. If you’re really skillful you can flip it in the pan, I don’t have that many skills. Using the spatula ease the pancake out of the pan and flip. If you don’t quite make it, just straighten it out with your hands. Cook for a minute more and then place on a plate. Separate pancakes with wax paper to keep them from sticking.
Fill the pancakes with your favorite flavors.
Carmelised Apple & Pears (serves 2 )
In a non-stick pan, combine 2 skin on apples (cored and sliced into wedges), 1 tbls butter, and 2 heaping tbls sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon. Cover and cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes until fruit has begun to soften. Add 2 pears (seeds and stem removed sliced into wedges) cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the fruit has soften and sugar has turned into a syrup. This is about another 10 minutes. Increase the recipe as needed.
Chocolate Banana(serves 2)
Cover 1/2 of crepe with 1 tbls Nutella spread. Thinly slice two small bananas and place on top of Nutella and roll crepe.
Strawberries and Cream (serves 2)
Remove the leaves and slice 1 pint strawberries. Place strawberries in a non-metallic bowl and cover with 1/2 cup sugar. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, use Cool Whip or beat 1/4 cup whipping cream or double cream until stiff. Fill crepe with strawberries, roll crepe and place a dollop of cream on top. Drizzle strawberry syrup on crepe.
Ham & Cheese
Using deli counter ham, cover half of crepe immediately after flipping the crepe. Add 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese. When crepe has cooked, fold uncovered side of crepe over meat and cheese and then fold crepe in half. Let crepe stand in hot pan until cheese melts.
My husband loves fried chicken. No, I mean he’s really in love with fried chicken! I don’t think you understand how serious this is. If it were possible to marry fried chicken, I would be kicked to the curb. And I really can’t blame him. Fried chicken is one of those pleasures in life that the vegan, healthy eating, everything-that-you-put-in-your-mouth-that-even-remotely-tastes-good people have waged war against.
I’m not talking about the fried chicken that comes from the Chinese carry-out with a bit of mambo sauce on the side (what is mambo sauce anyway?) or the faux home cooked, mechanically shaped stuff that you get from KFC. I mean the juicy, salty, sweet, crispy deep fried hugs that your Grandma would stand over the stove for hours cooking in that old black iron skillet. Chicken that’s so good you would seriously contemplate selling one of your kidneys for just one juicy leg. Because you always have another kidney, but fried chicken like Grandma made is hard to come by.
I don’t remember my first experience with fried chicken because, like a loyal friend, it’s always been in my life. And it always makes me smile. Most of my best memories revolve around food, and more specifically around fried chicken. I suspect, if you are Black and from America, yours do too. Remember your loyal friend lovingly nestled in the shoe box when you took those long car trips (or was that just my husband’s family)? Remember those family picnics where the fried chicken took center stage? Everyone’s Grandma had a Crisco can on the stove full of bacon grease. For many of us, our first experience with cooking was shaking the chicken and flour in the brown paper bag. And that first bite of chicken hot from the grease, the crunch giving way to the juicy molten goodness dripping between your fingers. Fried chicken has just always been part of the family.
I don’t fry chicken often now. Even on the best of days, it’s not that great for you. This is really interesting since our grandparents ate it at least once every week and they lived well into their gray old chicken eatin’ days. Nonetheless, the health gods tell us that we shouldn’t eat it at all or “oven fry” it without the skin because it tastes just the same. Yeah right… who ever said this has never had a Grandma that fried chicken. So now, in my effort to keep my husband around for at least the next 80 years, I save it for special occasions – birthdays, family get-togethers, the first Eagles football game of the season, or when I just feel down. And of course, anytime a little extra happy won’t hurt. I will continue to fry chicken and making wonderful memories. One day, I’ll be the old grandma in the kitchen with the iron skillet frying up a batch with plenty of oil, plenty of seasoning and plenty of love.
You’ll need several basic tools which you should have already.
A high sided heavy gauge pan (high enough to hold 1 inch of oil and the chicken without spilling over) with a well fitted lid
Tongs for turning the chicken (you don’t want to pierce the chicken with a fork as you’ll lose all the juicy goodness).
Paper towels and a heat proof bowl for drying grease from the chicken
Paper towels or a clean dishtowel to dry the chicken after cleaning
A plastic bag for coating the chicken with flour
A kitchen thermometer to test the temperature of the oil
2 lbs (1 kg) chicken parts
1 cup plain flour
3 tbls seasoning (plain salt and pepper, Lawry’s, Season-All, All Purpose seasoning, or my chicken seasoning described below)
1 ltr oil (any oil with a high smoking point and no flavor like sunflower, peanut, canola, or vegetable)
Wash chicken and pluck any stray feathers (yes in the UK you must do this) and use clean paper towel or dishtowel to completely dry it. If you’ve chosen to make chicken breasts, cut the breasts in half to ensure the meat gets thoroughly cooked. Season chicken with your preferred seasoning and refrigerate for at least an hour.
When ready to cook, remove chicken from fridge and set aside. Place the dry pan on the stove on medium heat (5 on electric stoves) for 2 to 3 minutes. NOTE: If you have a pan lined with Teflon or you are unsure whether the pan is lined with Teflon do not follow this step (Teflon can be toxic when burnt). While waiting for pan to heat, add about 1 cup of flour to a plastic bag and add two generous pinches of seasoning to the flour and shake. When done, fill the pan to a depth of about 1 inch and increase heat to medium high (7 on electric stove). While the oil is heating, place chicken in flour a few pieces at a time and shake to coat. Once all the chicken is coated, check the heat of the oil by using the kitchen thermometer. The temperature should be between 350 and 375F. Another method is to add a piece of bread to the oil, if it turns golden brown within a minute the oil is hot enough. If the oil is too hot, move the pan away from heat for a minute or two and test the temperature again. Once the oil is hot, it’s time to cook!
Carefully place the chicken in the pan one piece at a time. Make sure that the pieces are not touching. Once the pan is full, cover it tightly. The oil will be rapidly bubbling at this point. Remember this sound. When the bubbling slows down, it’s time to check the chicken. This should be about 15 minutes. If the chicken is the proper crispness, careful turn each piece, and continue to cook uncovered. Again, you should hear rapid bubbling. When it slows down (about 5 to 10 minutes), check again by removing the largest piece and piercing the meatiest part with a sharp knife. If the juice comes out tinged red or pink, put the piece back in and cook some more. Once done, remove the pieces and place them in paper towel lined bowl.
Seneca’s Fried Chicken Seasoning
2 tbls sea salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp mustard powder