Sunday, September 25, 2011

you are in a beautiful place.

this was done in chalk on one of the post things lining the area along the river where i've been spending my lunch hours. i love random happy graffiti.

what i don't love is how little free time i feel like i have these days. it's been wildly difficult to do anything that requires thought in the evenings, after working and riding the bus and whatnot. writing and photographing whole blog posts often seems beyond me. so to try to do a little something in the time that i have, i started a daily tumblr that will just have one or a couple of pictures and maybe a description, but no real recipes. so if you want to, you could look at it.

i'm definitely still going to have whole things here, but i'm striving for once a week or so at this point.

fish sauce drumsticks

mmm, these drumsticks are pretty great, i have to say. i've made them three times in the last couple of weeks, which is really saying something because generally the only thing i make that frequently is bean & cheese tacos (the house go-to for quick simple dinners).

they were inspired by the fish sauce chicken wings at pok pok, which is a pretty well-known thai place here in portland. people go nuts for those things, which is justifiable, because they are delicious. i wanted to try to do a similar thing but with drumsticks and without deep frying. this is because drumsticks are a little meatier and less pointless than chicken wings and because i am afraid of deep frying.

drumsticks are pretty cheap, too, even when you buy cuddled-to-death free range ones. for these pictures, i used the toaster oven because it was hot at the time. i have to really recommend that you use a regular oven though - it does a much better job crisping the skin.

so roast some drumsticks at 400 for about 40 minutes. i salt and pepper them a little bit first.

while that's going on, you can make the delicioso glaze/sauce.

this was what i used for the first batch. it was great, but i subsequently used brown sugar instead and i think that was better. brown sugar has molasses in it, which seems to caramelize better and add a little bitter note that is really good. i also added a tablespoon of honey in a subsequent batch and that's also something you should do.

first, chop up a couple of cloves of garlic. this is going to be fried in a little olive oil and will add some crunch at the end, so you don't want to totally mince it up all tiny. just get it into smallish chunks, like this (i should have put a quarter or something in there as scale. this is a large plate):

fry the garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil - i set the heat on medium and let the oil get hot, add the garlic, and stir pretty much continuously until it gets nice and golden. you have to get it out of there pretty quickly after that to make sure it doesn't burn. i just use a spatula or spoon, but if you have a tiny sieve or something it might work better. you can save the oil for some other use - it will be nicely garlicky.

set the crispy garlic and the oil aside and you can use the same pan to make the glaze. it consists of 1/2 a lime's worth of zest and juice, another couple of cloves of garlic, either minced very fine or (preferably) grated on a microplane, about 1/3 cup of fish sauce, 1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar, a tablespoon of honey, and a teaspoon or more of sriracha and some chili flakes, if you're so inclined. cook this all together on medium heat, stirring often. it will start to boil pretty rapidly and get all caramelly. let it cook down a bit and get thick - maybe 6 or 7 minutes.

if you happen to be lucky enough to have a thermometer that isn't broken and half-filled with water, that's the best way to determine whether your chicken is done. otherwise, do the usual clear-juices-not-pink thing and hope you don't get food poisoning! good luck!

once the drumsticks are pretty much done and the skin is all nice and crispy, toss them in a large bowl with the glaze and the fried garlic bits (or you could pour the glaze on the pan and try to roll them around in it. this doesn't really work as well, though). then place them back in the pan and cook them a bit more so the glaze bakes in nicely - maybe another 10 minutes or so. i find that it's hard to seriously overcook drumsticks - they generally will stay pretty moist.

finally, sprinkle those puppies with some chopped cilantro and have at it. we've had them with salad, with rice and roasted broccoli, and on their own. each time they were delicious, but i think the rice and roasted broccoli were the best accompaniment, not least because you can roast the broccoli at the same time as the drumsticks.

this picture makes them look a little anemic, but when you are smart enough to roast them in a real oven they get really deeply caramelized, which is better. trust me.


~ 1 lb chicken drumsticks (6 or so)
1/2 a lime's worth of zest and juice
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup of fish sauce
1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon (or so) honey (optional, but wonderfully sticky)
a teaspoon or more of sriracha and some chili flakes (optional)
cilantro (optional)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

broiled tuna steaks with rice & greens

aww, that tuna looks like a heart! which makes sense, because i heart this dish (get it?! heart, like i used the word heart instead of love because the heart is the symbolic place in our bodies where love resides, even though it's now pretty well accepted that the brain is actually where we process all of our emotions... heart! i'm just as glad the tuna didn't look like a brain, anyway).

still. this was really tasty and quick and easy. it's just tuna steaks that hang around in an asian-inspired sauce for a little while, then get broiled. or you could grill them. then you eat them sliced over a stir-fried bed of rice, spinach, garlic and lettuce (what? lettuce? yes!).

i feel like buying fish is fraught with difficulty these days. if it isn't dire warnings about how mercury is going to kill us, it's terrible sad puppy eyes from vincent chase reminding us about how we are eating all his friends. it's rough, i tell you. luckily, there are people at aquariums who know about these things and tell you what is okay to eat.

of course, i was a little suspicious of aquarium people telling me what kind of fish to eat. how do i know they aren't telling me to eat some super-endangered one so that the ones in the aquarium are the only ones left in the world so they can charge even more outrageous prices to see them and their terrifying conger eel buddies? seriously guys, aquarium tickets are like $30 these days.

answer: there is no way to know. just trust them. or don't. i always feel like fish are super-smug, anyway. maybe they need to be taken down a peg. but if you don't want your conscience to pang you when some little kid in the future is like, "what's a fish?" then you should probably look into that stuff.

so once this tuna got the go-ahead from those charlatans people doing god's work, i rinsed it, dried it off and slathered it with a delicious concoction of mayonnaise, tamari (like soy sauce), fish sauce, rooster sauce (aka sriracha), lime, ginger, and garlic. so. good. and the mayonnaise helps it stay moist and tender even under the heat of the broiler.

just dollop about 1/4 - 1/3 cup mayonnaise into a small bowl. add a good tablespoon (or more, to taste) of tamari, perhaps a teaspoon of fish sauce, a little less than that of sriracha (or by all means more, if you like the spicy), the zest from a lime and juice from half of it, 2-3 cloves of minced or microplaned garlic, and about a teaspoon of grated ginger. it's nice because you can use the microplane for all three of those last things. efficient!

i doused the tuna well, flopping it around so that it got all covered. i only needed perhaps 1/2 of the sauce for this part. then i let the fish sit in the fridge for an hour or so before topping it with a little more sauce and sticking it in the toaster oven to broil. it took 15 minutes in our toaster oven, but basically just broil it until it is as done as you like it. i have to admit, i am one of those philistines who likes it fairly well done - like still pink in the middle, but much more cooked than that bare sear everyone else seems to enjoy so much. you should just go with your heart on this one.

you can eat this with pretty much anything (delicious sandwiches with some napa cabbage slaw come to mind), but we had it with some leftover brown rice with spinach and lettuce sort of stir-fried with it. it's also particularly good if you drizzle a little bit of the leftover sauce and some lime juice over it at the end.

while the fish was cooking, i heated a little bit of oil in a large skillet and added a large minced clove of garlic. after 30 seconds or so, i added about 3/4 cup of frozen spinach and let that cook for a few minutes. once it was unfrozen, i added a chopped heart of romaine lettuce (isn't it amazing how this is coming back around to hearts? i should save this for valentimes).

romaine is great for this because the leafier part gets all silky and the stemmier part stays crunchy. just let that cook for a couple of minutes, then add maybe a cup or so of cooked rice and a tablespoon or less of tamari and a little fish sauce. this is a super-quick and easy side that would also be good as a lunch if you add some scrambled egg to it.

basically, this is a very tasty dinner that comes together in less than 15 minutes. as long as it's okay to eat some tuna once in awhile, we'll be having this again.


2 tuna steaks

1/4 -1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
zest of 1 lime
juice from 1/2 lime
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon + fresh-grated ginger

1 cup cooked rice
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup frozen spinach (or comparable fresh spinach, of course)
1 heart of romaine
fish sauce and tamari to taste

Saturday, September 10, 2011

beer-braised chicken, escarole, grapefruit, olives

wow, y'all, having a real-people job is tiring. i am totally not trying to complain, because i'm getting great experience in a field in which i want to practice, but man. once you add on the bus rides, i am suddenly gone for at least 45 hours a week. this has had a deleterious effect on the number of walkies the dogs get, as well as on my dinner-cooking.

the other day, however, i got off the bus for a brief 20 minute shopping expedition (so brief because that was the amount of time before another bus came). i wanted to make a quick and easy thing with some chicken thighs. they're great because they are more flavorful and less prone to drying out than are chicken breasts. also they're usually cheaper. so, bonus (especially since we always use humanely-raised chicken, which is more expensive but Worth It).

i decided to make a dish i think of as vaguely french - chicken sort of braised (in beer!) with oil-cured black olives, citrus, and greens. this time i used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but it's great with regular ones. it just takes longer to cook. also sometimes instead of greens i use fennel and little potatoes. the citrus can be lemon or orange or something as well.

actually, i thought it was going to be orange in this dish, but what i remembered as an orange in our fridge turned out to be a grapefruit. luckily, it turned out to be more of a happy accident than a mistake, as the escarole and grapefruit really got along well. so well, in fact, that they are going to the movies this weekend and didn't even invite me. that grapefruit is such a friend-poacher.

who wouldn't love escarole, though? it shares a family line (chicory!) with things like endive, radicchio, and the chicory that so delightfully flavors new orleans-style coffee. like those other lovelies, it has a bit of a bitter edge that lets you know it means business. it's no baby spinach you're dealing with here.

but where cousin endive is a little buttoned-down and staid (all those leaves folded tightly together into a little bullet), escarole is frizzly and wild, letting its leaves go where they may with little regard for propriety. it's great in soups or as salad with maybe a hard-boiled egg vinaigrette and it's fantastic in this dish.

prep for this is really easy, as one would expect of any good weeknight dinner. just cut off the bottom stem thingy of the escarole and cut the leaves into about 1 inch lengths, moving up from the end.

the rest of the ingredients can be dispatched almost as simply. slice two cloves (or more) of garlic thinly and one medium shallot slightly less thinly. chop up some italian parsley. i actually leave the olives whole, but you could pit them if you want to be particularly fancy. use a microplane or similar to zest your citrus. i used the zest from about half of the grapefruit, as it's strong. if you use lemon, just chop it into eighths or something and don't bother zesting it first.

the citrus flesh (if you aren't using lemon) is the only part of this that could be a little fiddly. i like to cut the sections into supremes because i don't care for the membrane things around the meat part, especially when using grapefruit. if you want to just make thin slices going from pole to pole, however, i don't think it would be the end of the world. if you want to try your hand at supreming, here's a video. once you get the hang of it, it really doesn't take long.

once everything's cut up, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil on medium-high heat in a pan large enough to hold all of the chicken thighs in one layer. once the oil's shimmery, add the chicken (put a little salt and pepper on it first). don't move it for a couple of minutes, then check a piece to see if it's browned. you're basically just trying to sear it, not cook it through at this point. flip once and brown on the other side. once both sides are brown, set the pieces of chicken on a plate to wait.

turn the burner down to medium-low (i think it was at about 5 on our dumb electric stove) and heat a little more olive oil if necessary. add the shallot, let it cook for 30 seconds or so, then add the garlic and let them both go for another 30 seconds. then add the escarole. as with so many greens, it'll look like a ridiculous amount when you put it in, but it wilts down a great deal as it cooks.

after about a minute or three (or whenever it starts looking a bit dry), add about half a bottle of beer. i used anchor steam, because that's what was in the fridge. i think any good normal beer would work. you probably don't want a stout or a miller chill, but anything in between would probably be good. i also sometimes make this with a dry white wine or some dry vermouth and chicken stock. so you have options, if you don't want to use beer. but the beer was really good in it.

then add the chicken back (i usually cut it into large chunks before this, so it cooks faster), as well as the olives and parsley, the zest, and the grapefruit. turn the heat down to lowish and let it cook partly covered for half an hour or so until the chicken is done. i usually just take a piece out and cut into it to check, but you could also use a thermometer to make really sure. taste the broth and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

this is good as a sort of stew, if you have lots of crusty bread to dip in the amazing sauce that forms when all of those bold flavors mix and mingle and get friendly-like. it would also be great on pasta or some little boiled potatoes. or rice. or quinoa.

basically, it's versatile, tasty and pretty quick. not too bad for a wednesday night dinner.

*the chicken in the picture above is a classic example of how you should do as i say, not as i do. i totally didn't sear the chicken first (although i usually do) and it was not as good. definitely go for the browning step. also you don't get a sense of how saucy this is because i had to take a picture before it was done. stupid early-setting sun.

~ 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or more, if you are using regular chicken thighs)
1 head escarole
1 citrus fruit (grapefruit, orange, lemon)
2 cloves garlic
1 medium shallot
10 + oil-cured black olives (usually available in the fancy-olive section of the supermarket)
1/4 or 1/3 cup chopped italian parsley
1/2 a beer or similar amount of wine, stock, etc.
salt and pepper to taste