Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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It doesn’t take much for my thoughts to turn to salad for a summer dinner. Since it has been in the 90’s all week with no true respite in sight, I not only want a salad but I want some spice as well. It’s well known in Asian and South Asian cultures that you want to eat “Heat” when it is hot outside. The theory being that the spice makes you sweat, thereby cooling down your body.

I used to make a salad with cold glass noodles from the Frugal Gourmet, but I decided to change it up a bit. For starters, I’m not wild about glass noodles and I also wanted a bit more complexity to the chicken. I did make this dish with Banh Pho, a large Thai rice noodle, but I think that next time I might even use an Udon noodle instead. All of the prep can – and should – be done ahead, so you can make the individual elements the night before or in the morning and then do your assemblage when you are ready to eat. If you are really pressed for time (or lazy) you can use prepared roasted chicken from your grocery. It won’t have the same depth of flavor, but will still be good. A slightly fruity Rosé would be lovely with this or a Pale Ale.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)

3-4 star anise

2 Tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

Water to cover

1/4 teaspoon 5 spice powder

2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce

2-3 small jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced, with the seeds (optional)

For the noodles

8 ounces wide Banh Pho rice noodles

Water to cover

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon cubes or 2 teaspoons “Better than Bouillon”

Sesame oil for drizzling

For the cucumbers

2 Persian cucumbers, sliced and cut into matchsticks

2 Tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sugar (I used raw sugar but granulated will do)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the peanut sauce

2 Tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

4-5 Tablespoons hot water

3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 very generous teaspoon Red Chili Paste with Garlic or Sriracha to taste

Garnishes

Roughly chopped cilantro

Roasted and lightly salted peanuts

Directions

For the chicken

  1. Place the chicken breasts in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the other chicken ingredients and enough water to cover the chicken.
  2. Cover the pan tightly and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. While still warm, remove the chicken breasts and shred them using 2 forks. Place in a bowl or container large enough to hold all of the shreds. Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour the liquid over the chicken. Pick out the jalapeno slices if used and the star anise and add them to the chicken. Cover and allow to cool. This can then be refrigerated.

For the noodles

  1. If using the rice noodles, place in a pot large enough to hold them. Cover with tap water, place the lid on the pot and allow to soak for 1 hour. After 1 hour, add the bouillon and bring to a boil with the lid on. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the noodles for 10 minutes. (If using another kind of noodle, follow the package instructions.) Drain the noodles and drizzle with sesame oil to prevent them becoming too sticky. Allow them to cool, uncovered. They can be refrigerated.

For the cucumbers

  1. Place the cut cucumbers in a glass bowl or dish. Marinate them in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

For the peanut sauce

  1. Mix the peanut sauce ingredients together until they are the consistency of heavy cream. Start with 4 Tablespoons of water and add more if necessary.

Assemblage

  1. Pour the well-mixed peanut sauce over the noodles and using tongs, toss it through. The noodles may have stuck together some, but you can carefully separate them as you mix.
  2. Place some 1/4 of the noodles in each bowl or plate and cover with 1/4 of the chicken shreds that you have drained from the liquid.
  3. Top with 1/4 of the cucumbers. Garnish with cilantro and some peanuts. IMG_3288

 

 

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

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I really love meals that I can prep a day ahead – especially when everything is cooked on one pan that I cover with foil, making clean-up a breeze. Sheet pan meals are all the rage now and I have been trying a few of them out, including a Honey-Sesame Tofu with Green Beans that I now have my husband making. I came across this chicken recipe in the Parade Magazine that accompanies my Sunday newspaper. Its provenance is from a new cookbook by New York Times Columnist Melissa Clark called Dinner: Changing the Game. I made a couple of small changes but the biggest change came because my husband ended up having to work late last night so everything was prepped yesterday and marinated in the fridge for a day. I can only believe that it improved the wonderful flavors and made tonight’s dinner a snap.

Harissa is a North African-style chili paste that is now available in many supermarkets and online. There is both red harissa and green harissa. Either would work here, but I used the red. How much you use will be a matter of personal taste as well as the heat of the particular brand of harissa that you are using. I like a lot of flavor, but I don’t like my food so hot that all I am tasting is heat and nothing else. The 2 Tablespoons of harissa that I used produced an intensely flavorful dish with just a little heat. You could easily increase the amounts to make this for a crowd. You must use fresh herbs here and a good Greek yogurt. This recipe is definitely a keeper and one that will appear on our rotation many times. I only added a simple salad to complete the meal.  IMG_3047

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt IMG_3044

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4-6 chicken thighs (depending on size – about 2 pounds) on the bone and with the skin

1.5 pounds of fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (You can use cracked black but I really encourage you to buy the flavorful, citrusy Aleppo pepper)

3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 Tablespoons harissa or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (Grind your own if you can!)

2 leeks (white and light green parts only) washed, trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced

Grated zest of one lemon

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1.5 Tablespoons EVOO

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (optional but really good)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup chopped fresh herbs, divided in 2 (I used a combination of dill, mint and parsley)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

  1. Place the first seven (7) ingredients in a one gallon freezer bag along. Seal the bag well and gently smush everything around to distribute the seasonings. If you are anxious (I was) place the bag inside of a second freezer bag and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours and as much as one day.
  2.  Place the next 4 ingredients in a one quart freezer bag and seal it well. Gently smush the leeks around to distribute the zest, salt and EVOO. Refrigerate along side the chicken.
  3. When you are ready to cook, cover a sheet pan with 2-inch sides with heavy duty aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Place the chicken and potatoes on the pan in a single layer along with any liquid. Roast for about 20 minutes. Then scatter the leeks over the chicken and potatoes and roast for an additional 20 minutes or until everything is golden and slightly crispy.
  5. In a small bowl combine the yogurt and all ingredients (Only half of the fresh herbs) keeping the final 1/2 lemon and the other half of the herbs for garnish. Stir with a small whisk or fork.

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

On a recent trip to Healdsburg, a quaint little town in Sonoma wine country, we picked up a lovely book called The Wine Lover’s Cookbook, and it really has turned out to be a perfect cookbook for us with all the wonderful recipes each paired with a recommended wine and an alternative wine.

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One of the first recipes we tried was this fantastic stuffed chicken that was served over a spinach fettuccine (the original recipe calls for linguine but we liked the colors of the spinach.)

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This one’s recommended wine was a Sauvignon Blanc, the backup wine is a Pinot Noir.  And as the book notes, if you choose to pair it with the Pinot Noir, replace the sherry in the ingredients with red wine.

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Sauce

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped, roasted bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup of dry sherry (or red wine)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of chopped fresh oregano (1/2 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes

Chicken and Noodles

  • 4 large chicken boneless chicken breast
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes
  • 6 tbsp sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp minced chives
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb linguine (or fresh spinach fettucine)

Directions

  1. To make sauce, in a large pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Then add garlic and the roasted red peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then, add the sherry, chicken stock, tomato paste, oregano and basil.
  2. Increase the heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture slightly for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until well combined.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry.  With a sharp knife carefully cut a deep incision into each breast.  Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.
  6. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, the sun dried tomatoes, the basil, the thyme, the shallots, and chives and mix thoroughly.
  7. Using your fingers, stuff the ricotta mixture inside the chicken, equally into each breast.  Dust with flour.
  8. In a large, oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes on each side until lightly browned.
  9. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15-18 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, cook the pasta noodles to package directions.
  11. When the chicken is done, plate the noodles, add the chicken, and then spoon the hot sauce on top.  Garnish with chopped chives.

From The Wine Lover’s Cookbook

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

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Eleven days ago I had hand surgery on my dominant hand. I want to thank Frances for taking over and posting so many wonderful recipes while my hand has been healing – and there are more to come! Since she has a day job and an active social life, I’m always so grateful when she finds the time to post. But I had THE best surgeon and yesterday I was able to make this dish for our dinner without any help.

I have never understood people who say they don’t like fennel or eggplant because they can be eaten so many different ways. I don’t know if this dish will change your mind about fennel, but it is simple to make and is delicious with bright Mediterranean flavors. All I needed to complete the meal was some brown rice that I cooked in chicken broth and a nice glass of white wine. Had I been more ambitious I would have made salad, but 10 days after surgery, this was my limit. Please do not use chicken breasts for this and do NOT remove the skin. Normally I do remove the skin when I cook chicken, but this is roasted to the point of such lovely crispiness that just this once – indulge.

The recipe came from the kitchn in a series they ran on sheet pan dinners. I only made two small changes in my version and am anxious to try some of the other offerings from this blog.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

Yield: 4 servings 
Ingredients

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6)
2 small fennel bulbs (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total)
5 large cloves garlic
1 large lemon
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Aleppo pepper or freshly ground black pepper (I used about 1 teaspoon)
Cooked rice or bread, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the chicken in a large bowl; set aside. When I am dealing with raw meat or fish, I always use either a glass or stainless steel bowl. I know when they get cleaned that they will have no bacteria or other nasty stuff left over.
  2. Trim the stalks and fronds off the fennel bulbs and set aside the fronds. Cut each bulb in quarters through the root. Cut each quarter into 2 to 3 thick slices. Add to the bowl with the chicken. Mince about 1 tablespoon of fennel fronds and add to the bowl.
  3. Mince the garlic and add to the bowl. Finely grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the bowl. Add the EVOO, white wine, season with the salt and a generous amount of pepper, and toss to combine. I like Aleppo pepper which not only has a lovely red color, but it is a relatively mild pepper with a bright citrusy taste. (I also used it here because grinding pepper is still a bit challenging for me. It is wonderful in so many recipes that I encourage you to find it. I bought mine online through Amazon.)
  4. I allowed the mixture to marinate for about 30 minutes. I would imagine that this could even be marinated over night in the fridge in a heavy duty plastic bag, intensifying the flavors even more.
  5.  When you are ready to cook the chicken, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Transfer the chicken mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with heavy duty foil for easy clean up. Arrange the fennel around the outside and place the chicken pieces closely together in the center. Pour any remaining juices from the bowl over the chicken. chicken-and-fennel
  6. Roast until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of about 160°F and the fennel is tender and beginning to brown around the edges, about 35 minutes. (You can tell just by looking at it when the chicken is done. And thighs don’t dry out or get tough like chicken breasts so it is a bit more forgiving if you cook it a bit longer.) Take the pan out of the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving with rice or bread if desired. Be sure to spoon some of the wonderful pan drippings over the chicken and rice when serving.img_2951

Arroz Con Pollo – Chicken with Rice

img_2654I have eaten many wonderful versions of paella in my lifetime – those that others have made and paella that I have made. It was a favorite dish from my mother’s repertoire. But sometimes I want something just as good but a bit simpler – no seafood and no sausage. I turn to Arroz Con Pollo or Chicken with Rice. This is a dish that can easily be made for a weeknight dinner and the only exotic ingredient is saffron. Most everything else you would have in your pantry or could easily pick up at most grocery stores or a good bodega. When you think you have just about had as much chicken as you can stand, give this wonderful dish a try. To turn any weeknight special, serve this with a hearty Spanish red wine. It just might renew your love for that old clucker!

Arroz Con Pollo

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

4 chicken thighs, bone-in but skin removed (This is easily accomplished using paper towels to grab off the skin in one good pull.)

4 to 5 chicken drumsticks, skin removed

About 3 to 4 Tablespoons of EVOO

1 Spanish onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large Cubanelle pepper cut into large dice (If you cannot find this dark pepper you can use a banana pepper)

8 to 10 large green olives stuffed with pimento

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Kosher Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

About 2.5 cups of chicken broth or water

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

1 roasted red pepper from a jar, rinsed and thinly sliced into strips

Directions

  1. In a large heavy skillet with straight sides and a tight-fitting lid (I like my cast iron Lodge pan) that will hold all of the chicken pieces in one layer, heat the EVOO until it just begins to ripple but not smoke.
  2. Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces and brown them in the oil on all sides (about 8 minutes). Remove the chicken to a platter and keep nearby.
  3. Add the chopped Cubanelle pepper and the onion to the pan, adding more oil if necessary, stirring to soften. Add the cumin and cloves and the olives and some additional salt. (Remember that the olives have salt so go easy.) Once everything has begun to soften and the spices are giving off a lovely aroma, add the rice, tomato paste and the crumbled saffron, mixing well. You want all of the grains of rice to be coated with the oil and seasonings.img_2650img_2651
  4. Pour in enough liquid (stock or water) to cover the rice by a couple of inches. Add 1/2 of the chopped cilantro and mix through. Bring everything to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling rapidly, add back the chicken pieces, coating them in the liquid which has taken on the color of saffron. Cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes and then gently stir through the defrosted peas and garnish with the strips of red pepper. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes with the heat turned off. This will be enough to heat through the peas and red pepper without over-cooking them. Garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro. img_2652

Chicken Tortilla Soup

img_2423The weather this week has mostly been incredible – sunny, breezy and highs in the low 60s. It’s November – and this is Chicago! My husband and I took a 9 mile walk along the lakefront yesterday and ran into the New Zealand All Blacks and the Irish rugby team fans heading for a championship game at Soldier Field. Ireland won. Rugby. Who knew?

Today is another gorgeous day and I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, but I do want something to top off an incredible week. After a stunning win by the Cubs and an all-out citywide party something bland just wasn’t going to cut it. I decided to make a chicken tortilla soup. I had made one last week for the first time and while it showed promise, it just was lacking. So what follows is my version.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons neutral vegetable oil like a Canola oil

2 small or 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped into a small dice

2 Tablespoons minced garlic

2 large jalapenos (about 2 Tablespoons) , finely chopped

6 cups of chicken stock

14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

26.5 ounce (or two 14.5 ounce cans) black beans, drained and rinsed well

15.5 ounce can corn kernels, preferably fire roasted or about 2 cups (you can use frozen or fresh corn if you prefer)

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3 medium size breasts)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons chili powder (I like the one from Rancho Gordo)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon oregano leaves

Juice of 2 fresh limes

1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

2 flour tortillas (I used whole wheat) cut into thin strips and fried in 2 Tablespoons of oil (I used Grapeseed oil because of its neutral taste and high burning point)

Lime wedges for garnish

Jalapeno slices from a jar or can (optional)

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Directions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium stockpot. Add the onions and cook until softened and just beginning to brown at the edges.
  2. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook for another minute
  3. Add the tomatoes, spices and salt and stir through. Then add the beans and the stock.
  4. Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 25 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, carefully remove it from the pot. Shred it using 2 forks to pull the meat apart. This is much easier to do if the meat is hot. Once the chicken cools, it becomes more firm and shredding is more difficult.
  5. Add the lime juice and corn to the pot and add back the chicken. The soup can be prepared ahead up to this point. When ready to serve, heat everything all the way through. Garnish with the avocado, cilantro, cheese, tortilla strips and lime wedges. If you want a bit more heat, you can add some sliced jalapenos from a jar or can. img_2422

Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Spinach

img_2304Whenever I do not know what I feel like cooking, I look to pasta for inspiration. I came up with this one on Sunday and I hope that my cousin David will like it. The sauce turned out better than even I expected. It calls for half & half and a little butter – get over it, people! It won’t kill you and it is sooooooooooooooo satisfying.  And yes, you should pair it with a good red wine, a crusty bread so you don’t miss a drop of sauce and a salad if you are feeling ambitious. I like a sharp pecorino grated on top but parmesan would also be great. Pecorino is pretty salty so adjust your salt accordingly if using. And the best part is that you don’t have to be too crazy about measuring. Below is a guide, but feel free to eyeball your ingredients based on personal preference.

Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Spinach

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

1 pound of Fettuccine (preferably rigate)

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1/2 to 3/4 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large dice and generously sprinkled with Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper (The thighs have more flavor than chicken breasts and also don’t dry out as easily.)

1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

5 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced

Lots of fresh thyme (preferably lemon thyme if you can get it)

2 T unsalted butter

1/2 cup red wine (use what you will be drinking or if you have some left-over that is still good for cooking but no longer at its best for drinking)

12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I like cremini or baby bello)

1 generous cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

10 ounces of baby spinach (It really cooks down so this is NOT too much). If you use regular spinach, you will need to remove the hard stems.

1 cup half & half

red pepper flakes to taste

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat the EVOO and add the onion and diced chicken. Do not move the chicken around too much because you are trying to get a nice brown on it. Once the chicken has browned, remove it to a bowl and set aside. It should be easy to pick the chicken from the onions.
  2. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the red wine and mushrooms and cook on a medium high heat until the wine becomes syrupy and reduces by half.
  3. Add in the butter, thyme (at least 1 Tablespoon), chicken and the grape tomatoes. If you are making the sauce ahead, stir through and turn off the heat and cover until you are ready to cook the pasta.
  4. Cook your pasta according to package, but 3 minutes before it is finished (so if it cooks for 8 minutes then 5 minutes in) throw your spinach into the pot with the pasta and give it a stir. Finish cooking.
  5. Drain the pasta and spinach together and immediately add to the sauce. If your pan isn’t big enough, then add the sauce to the pasta which has been returned to its cooking pot. Immediately add the cream and hot pepper flakes, if using and cook on high heat for about a minute, mixing everything through. Plate and add freshly grated cheese.

Note: If you Really don’t want to use cream, add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of pasta water at the end before draining the pasta. It will give a creamy-ish sauce and will also taste delicious. But if you can, definitely use the cream.

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