Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Dinner

My husband and I recently established a Friday night ritual of going to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Randolph, MA – Pho 98 Cuisine – where we usually enjoy a first course of brightly colored and flavored cabbage salad garnished with duck, chicken or shrimp, and then a chicken or pork dish for each of us.  We missed doing that this past Friday, and my taste buds were feeling deprived.

I solved that matter yesterday with a stop at Kam Man market in Quincy after an appointment in the area, and stocked up on some of their beautiful produce and other staples that I keep on hand for Southeast Asian cooking at home.  My specific craving was for a lemongrass roasted chicken with spicy cucumber salad and sesame noodles on the side.

A quick search of the web led me to the Fine Cooking recipe archive for a truly spectacular recipe for Lemongrass Roast Chicken, which I found to be almost exactly the same as the recipe in my Mai Pham cookbook, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table.

I rarely follow a recipe exactly as written, except when it comes to breads which can be tricky if you mess with them.  This one, however, spoke to me in a language I could taste and so, except for altering the method of roasting, I used the exact ingredients for the marinade, the added coating of lemongrass and cilantro, and the exquisite dipping sauce.

Rather than reproduce the whole recipe here, simply click on the link above to find detailed ingredients, and do try the method I mentioned in my review – butterfly the chicken and roast it in a 12″ cast iron skillet at 400 for 45 minutes.  When done, it will look like this and you’ll want to spoon the gorgeous sauce all over it after cutting it with poultry shears.  NOTE:  One long stalk of lemongrass produced the required 1/2 cup of minced…I did not need the 3 suggested in the recipe.

LEMONGRASS ROAST CHICKEN 

(from Fine Cooking)

Lemongrass chickenThe spicy cucumber salad and sesame noodles were perfect accompaniments.

SPICY CUCUMBER SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp water

1 tsp Thai chili sauce

1/2 very large English cucumber, sliced in half vertically, seeds lightly scooped out, and cut into thin half-moons

1 small shallot halved and thinly sliced

Several sprigs cilantro and mint leaves torn into small pieces, or chopped

In medium bowl combine first 5 ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the cucumber, shallot, and herbs and stir to get everything covered with the dressing.  Refrigerate until time to serve.

SESAME NOODLES JORDAN

Follow the link to this recipe which I submitted years ago to Epicurious, and which appears in the cookbook they later published.  It’s best served warm or room temperature, but leftovers can be enjoyed right from the fridge.  I did not add the usual complement of optional vegetables such as snow peas, red pepper or mushrooms for this meal’s side dish – simply a handful of the Thai basil from Kam Man to keep it simple.

The resulting meal was as good as anything I’ve ever enjoyed at Pho 98 or any other Vietnamese establishment.  And the kitchen did smell like there was a restaurant in the neighborhood.IMG_3950

 

 

 

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Perfect for Passover Chicken

Another Passover approaches, another year when ronicooks is not doing a Seder.  So sad to admit that my many years of hosting a sumptuous Passover feast and a Seder led by my son have come to an end.  Family members are far-flung or departed, along with my will to cobble together a table of friends for the occasion.

And yet, the desire to prepare dishes that are Passover-perfect is still strong, if only for the immediate family.  This Sweet & Spicy roast chicken, adapted from the NYT cooking site, is just such a dish.  I make it in a 12″ cast iron skillet, but if doubled or tripled for a large gathering, it can easily be done in a larger roasting pan.

Husband and I are having this for dinner tonight, along with the challah I baked this afternoon, along with a skillet of oven herbed oven-roasted red-skin potato wedges and steamed snap peas.  But if you’re doing a Passover dinner, lose the challah, substitute matzo and potato kugel, and make this ahead of time because it keeps well and merely needs reheating while you enjoy the proceedings with your guests:

SWEET & SPICY ROAST CHICKEN

(adapted from New York Times)

INGREDIENTS:

1 Meyer lemon quartered and sliced thinly

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp kosher salt

3 tbsp orange or ruby red grapefruit juice

4 tbsp EVOO

1-1/2 tbsp whole grain mustard

3 tbsp honey

1 bay leaf

1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 4-lb air-chilled chicken cut into 8 pieces, wing-tips removed

1 large sweet onion halved and thinly sliced

3 cups carrots thinly sliced on the bias

2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill chopped date pieces

1 tsp dried thyme

Garnish:

thinly sliced scallions, chopped parsley or cilantro, and chopped pistachios

PREPARATION:

In a small saucepan, combine lemon juice, orange or grapefruit juice, olive oil, mustard, honey, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and black pepper.  Bring a boil, then simmer about 5 minutes and remove from heat to cool.

In a large bowl – 5 quart mixing bowl, for example – combine the cooled sauce with carrots, onions, dates, cut-up Meyer lemon, and thyme, and then add the chicken pieces and turn several times to make sure everything is incely coated.  Refrigerate as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 and remove chicken pieces from the bowl so you can easily pour everything else into a 12″ cast iron skillet or small roasting pan.  Lay the chicken pieces atop the vegetables, skin side up.

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oven-ready

Roast for 35 minutes, basting occasionally, ubntil skin is nicely browned.  Reduce temperature to 350 and roast another 20 minutes, continuing to baste.

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and done!

To serve, remove chicken pieces to serving platter and pour sauce & veggies over.

Garnish and serve.

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garnished with parsley, scallions & crushed pistachios

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my dinner plate – yum!

 

Light Brioche Buns from NYT

Making a tavern-style hearty burger at home has always been one of my favorite quick dinners, and there was a time when the only buns that could stand up to a juicy 8-ounce patty were the brioche buns that Whole Foods now sells for $1.50 apiece.

But then, New York Times Cooking site came to the rescue.  So now, in keeping with my months-long commitment to home-baked breads, I can reproduce six of those hearty buns – with sesame seeds for added interest – for about the store-bought price of just one.

This recipe is adapted from the one on the NYT site.  My modifications are to make just 6 instead of the recommended 8, to add the sesame seeds, and to increase the baking time a couple of minutes because of the larger size.

Some of my friends are already baking these also, and have sworn off the store-bought bun forever, so why not try this……..

Hearty Sesame Brioche Buns

(adapted from NYT Cooking)

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INGREDIENTS:

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp kosher salt

2-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 cup warm water

3 tbsp warm milk

2-1/2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp SAF instant yeast, or other active dry yeast

2 large eggs

Sesame seeds

PREPARATION:

In a glass measuring cup, combine the water, milk, sugar and yeast and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, beat one of the eggs.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flours and salt, and add butter by rubbing in with your fingers until crumbly.  Use the flat blade of your mixer to stir until a soft dough forms, then switch to dough hook and run mixer for 8 minutes on medium low to knead the dough.  Shape dough into a ball and cover with plastic, let rise until doubled 1-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and divide dough into 6 pieces.  A kitchen scale comes in handy here, as you’ll have 30 ounces of dough and each bun should be 5 ounces.  Roll each piece into a ball and place with ample separation on your parchment-lined baking sheet.  cover with a cotton towel or napkin and let rise again 1–2 hours.

Set a large shallow pan on bottom rack of oven and fill halfway with water.  Preheat oven to 400.  Beat remaining egg with 1 tbsp water.

Brush the risen buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds to taste.  Place rack in center of oven and bake for 17 minutes.  Enjoy the luscious aroma of baking bread in your oven, then remove and cool on a rack for about an hour.

This may sound like a lot of steps, but trust me – it’s very little hands-on time, and so much worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

 

Marlon Delno’s Chocolate Date Cake, Southwest Style

Several years ago, the Epicurious.com site was a thriving hub for foodies curated by Condé Nast, not only culling the best recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit, but also managing a forum for discussion and submission of personal recipes.  They even published a cookbook of member recipes a few years ago, and I’m proud to say that one of mine was requested for inclusion (Sesame Noodles Jordan).

While many of us who met in that Epicurious Forum have regrouped and perpetuated a much livelier and enjoyable forum via Facebook, one of our favorite contributors, an older gentleman from Texas, has not participated.  But still,  Marlon’s Korean Bulgogi recipe inspires one of my favorite ways of grilling pork or beef kabobs – Korean Pork Kabobs – and his Chocolate Date Cake, Southwestern Style is an easy dessert I turn to often for its moist and unique combination of dark chocolate with a bit of a kick.

I made this again last night – and the photo shows that we enjoyed a bit for dessert before posting this recipe for

M. DELNO’S CHOCOLATE DATE CAKE, SOUTHWEST STYLE

 

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup whole pitted dates, coarsely chopped (Bob’s Red Mill chopped date pieces work perfectly for this)
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour (I use BRM whole Wheat Pastry Flour, but any AP flour will work)
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground red chili (such as New Mexican), or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate or same amount dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º.

Generously butter bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium saucepan bring dates and 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add butter and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Stir in baking soda until dissolved. Pour into a medium bowl and blend in egg and vanilla.

In separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, salt, ground red chili or cayenne, and cinnamon. Stir into date mixture. Then stir in ½ cup chocolate bits and chopped nuts. Pour into prepared springform pan and sprinkle remaining ½ cup chocolate bits over top. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester comes out dry.  Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then remove sides and bottom of pan. Can be served warm or cooled completely.  Excellent on its own, but also especially nice with a scoop of coffee ice cream.

 

 

Yvonne’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese

My Facebook friend Yvonne, a fellow schnauzer-lover and accomplished home chef, recently posted her latest mac and cheese dish to our closed foodie group.  The key to its deliciousness, besides her skill in the kitchen, was Beecher’s Flagship cheese.  Handmade in Seattle, available at retail if you can find it, for about $25/lb, or by mail order with shipping costs that can double the cost of a pound.  There’s also a milder jack cheese component, and a surprising touch of both garlic powder and chili powder.

Upon seeing the photos Yvonne posted of ingredients, recipe on the package, and finished dish, I was determined to find a suitable substitute and try this out myself.  Seeing that Flagship is a combination of nutty-flavored Gruyère and cheddar, I searched – where else – but at Trader Joe’s for some excellent cheese stand-ins.

Mission accomplished, my cheese en place included these:

Gruyere

NZ cheddarJack cheese

The rest was simple, and seriously rivaled by longtime favorite Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese.

YVONNE’S “WORLD’S BEST” MAC & CHEESE

(adapted from Beecher’s recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

12 ounces penne pasta

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

8 ounces each sharp cheddar and Gruyère, shredded

4 ounces Jack cheese, shredded

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp chili powder

1/8 tsp garlic powder

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º.

Butter a 9 x 13” baking dish.

Cook penne in 4-6 quarts boiling water about 9 minutes, until they’re cooked but still chewy.  Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside.

Melt butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour.  Continue whisking for 2 minutes.  Slowly add milk while whisking and cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Add 14 ounces of the cheddar/Gruyère mixture, 2 ounces of the Jack cheese, salt, ¼ tsp chili powder and the garlic powder.  Stir until everything is melted and incorporated.

Combine pasta and sauce in large bowl or in the same saucepan you just used if large enough, and scrape into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining cheeses combined with the remaining 1/4 tsp chili powder.  Bake uncovered 30 minutes and let set 5 minutes before serving.

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This will serve 6 hearty portions with a salad for dinner, or more as a side dish.  Can be refrigerated and reheated or recipe can be halved.

Smoked Paprika Roasted Chicken Thighs

Thanks to Sam Sifton for posting the inspiration for this recipe on the NYT Cooking Site.  I’ve made it twice and my husband declares – “you have to make chicken thighs this was always!

Sifton’s recipe had butter in the rub; I subbed olive oil, upped the lemon juice, and added the pom molasses.  And rather than grill, I changed the cooking method to oven roasting to preserve all those lovely cooking juices for a reduced glaze at the end.

Easy enough to prepare with the spice paste and refrigerate hours ahead of cooking time, and then you’re free until revisiting your dinner for a little over an hour of mostly hands-off cooking time.  The beauty of this dish, besides the simplicity of preparation, is that the chicken thighs remain juicy and tender even after an hour of roasting, and also after reheating if you have leftovers.

Smoked Paprika Roasted Chicken Thighs

INGREDIENTS:

8 very meaty air-chilled chicken thighs on the bone, totaling 4-5 lbs.

1 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika

2 tbsp smoked Spanish paprika

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp honey

juice from 1/2 Meyer lemon, rind cut thickly and reserved

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

4 cloves garlic finely minced

PREPARATION:

Either early in the day or just before roasting, cut off any excess flaps of skin hanging off the chicken thighs and season them with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.  Combine all the spice paste ingredients (except for pieces of lemon rind) in a large baking dish and then rub the paste all over the chicken pieces, loosening the skin a bit to get some under it.  Scatter the lemon rind pieces around the chicken, then cover and refrigerate until ready to roast.

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Preheat oven to 400º and place the chicken, skin side down in one layer, in a large cast iron skillet.  You can add the lemon rind pieces or discard at this point.  Roast for 30 minutes, then turn over with skin side up and roast for another 30 minutes.  If skin needs crisping at this point, turn on the broiler for just a couple of minutes to get it the way you like.

Remove chicken pieces to a serving platter.  Reduce the pan juices over medium high heat to a piquant, syrupy sauce to brush or pour over.

This makes a hearty dinner for 4-6, depending on the size of your chicken thighs and your guests’ appetites.  Leftovers reheat beautifully.

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Served with oven-baked crispy fries and salad.

 

Kale, Sausage and Vegetable Soup

My husband and I just finished off a pot of this and he suggested I re-post for cold weather comfort.

ronilovescooking

Before kale started getting into everything from cookies to treats for dogs, there was kale soup – a hearty concoction that takes no special talent to prepare.  All that’s needed – the ingredients, a large soup pot, and the bit of time it takes to chop, sauté and simmer.

I combed the web for a version of this soup I recall from many years ago when our friend and neighbor Mariyln Fuller hosted a Sunday night soup party.  Damned if I can recall what the other two soups were, because that’s the one that stuck in my mind – I went back for seconds, forsaking the others I’d tried.  The taste memory was so intense that I knew it would be easier to reinvent it myself than try to find her version from an ancient issue of Gourmet.

And so it goes.  This makes a huge pot and can certainly be…

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