Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chicken & Waffles

Last Tuesday while I was chatting it up with Julie on WTIP, we decided that I needed a food challenge of sorts. Julie picked three ingredients and I was to make something epic. Julie had a strong start with her ingredient list. First she chose chicken. Then it was mushrooms. I was thinking to myself, "EASY". Then for the third ingredient, she chose blueberries. Chicken, mushrooms, and blueberries. While I'm glad the third ingredient wasn't hotdogs, I will admit that I was a little stumped trying to pull all of those ingredients together. Then it came to me. Chicken and waffles. It came to me as I was quizzing my fiance about the whys of chicken and waffles. Why would someone put fried chicken with waffles? Where do you drizzle the syrup? Are there any vegetables anywhere in this dish? Don't you think there should be at least some collards? Jeremy knows about my limited knowledge of things like chicken and waffles, and he is always there to help me out. Why would you not pair fried chicken and waffles? You drizzle the syrup everywhere. Chicken and waffles is not about eating your vegetables. Good to know.

Let's start with the first ingredient, chicken. I deep fried it in my small kitchen, and it resulted in the entire house smelling like a fried chicken shack for about three days. I was reminded why I prefer to deep fry things in an industrial kitchen, not at home. It had to be done however, and it was well worth it.

The waffles were the carrier of the blueberries. I made a multi-grain waffle with whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour, and cornmeal. I used dried blueberries, which seemed to really flavor the waffles throughout with a great blueberry flavor. They also re hydrated a bit in the batter, so they were tender and not chewy.

The mushrooms ended up as a side car of gravy. Something about deep frying chicken made me instantly think about gravy. When I envision myself eating chicken and waffles somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line, I envision involvement of gravy. Who doesn't love gravy?


1 (3 1/2 pound) fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2/3 cup all- purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 Tbls Creole seasoning (Tony Chacheres works well)

Heat enough vegetable oil to come about 1 inch up the sides of a large, deep cast iron skillet to 350 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken under cold running water and do not dry, leave wet. In a large sealable bag, combine the flour, cornmeal and creole seasoning. Add the chicken pieces one at a time, seal, and shake to coat evenly. Remove and place on a wire rack over a baking sheet and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. After the chicken has sat, I suggest repeating shaking the chicken in the flour mixture. I like lots of crunchy bits with my fried chicken.

Carefully add the chicken to the hot oil and fry, turning once until golden brown and the meat is cooked through, about 15 minutes. I had to do the chicken in batches as my pan was not so big, but it worked out. Remove and drain on paper towels. Remove the pan from the heat.

1/2 cup all- purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbls sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
4 Tbls butter, melted
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/3 cup dried blueberries

Preheat the waffle iron and lightly grease. I do this by rubbing the iron down with olive oil and a clean towel.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the butter and buttermilk and beat to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix until combined

Pour the batter into the hot waffle iron and cook until golden brown and lightly crisp.

4 Tbls butter
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbls flour
1/2 tsp thyme
1 Tbls tamri or soy sauce
1/4 cup sherry
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and saute about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute a few minutes more. Add the flour and thyme to the mushrooms and garlic and stir to combine. Allow the flour to cook a few minutes. Then add the sherry and tamari and allow to simmer until slightly reduced, all the while scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium low and add the milk, chicken stock, and cream. Allow the gravy to simmer on low, stirring occasionally until it has thickened, about 8 minutes. If the gravy seems too thick, add a splash more cream. 

To assemble this chicken and waffle experience, place a warm waffle on the plate and slather with butter. Top with fried chicken. Pour yourself a side dish of gravy.  Drizzle everything with maple syrup and just dive right in. There's crispy chicken skin, warm buttery waffles, the sweetness from the syrup, and delicious gravy. I really am sure that chicken and waffles exist everywhere except Minnesota. It's probably for the best. My coworker just confided that Lays potato chips has just introduced a chicken and waffle flavored potato chip. The first person to get a bag of those in my hands will win me cooking you dinner. Belly up!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Case of Blood Oranges

I made a decision last week to buy a half case of blood oranges. So far I do not regret my decision, nor has my family tired of them....yet. We've eaten them straight up, juiced them, and grated their zest on things like last nights spaghetti ala carbonara. We made some refreshing blood orange drinks by combining blood oranges, honey flavored Greek yogurt, vanilla soy milk and ice cubes in a blender. This week I thought I'd share a blood orange roasted pork that blew our minds. Blood oranges, ginger, and chilies make this pork so spectacular. Simple ingredients go together in a big way. I also slow roasted it for about 4 hours, so the flavors really mingled.

1- 3lb. pork shoulder roast, or any variety of pork roast
2 blood oranges, halved
1 inch chunk of fresh ginger, sliced (I left the peel on and just primitively cut the ginger into thick slices)
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp sambal oelek, or any other preferred chili paste, adding more or less to your liking
2 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper the pork roast. Sear it on all sides either on the grill, or in a cast iron pan, until all sides are browned well.  Choose a pan that is large enough to hold the roast and liquids. A dutch oven or large roasting pan would work well too.

In the same pan add the remaining ingredients. Cover the pan with aluminium foil, and place in a 300 degree oven. Set a timer for an hour. After an hour is up, pull the pan out of the oven. Flip the roast with a pair of tongs, and squeeze the orange halves over the top of the roast. Return the oranges to the pan, re-cover the pan with the foil, and return it to the oven. Set your timer for another hour, and repeat the above process. I did this for four intervals. The timing will depend on the size of your roast. You will know when it is fork tender, when you insert a fork into your roast and are able to pull the pork apart.

Remove the pork from the pan and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes on a cutting board. In the meantime place the pan with the roasting liquids on a burner on medium high heat. Reduce the liquids by half, so it has the consistency of a very thin bbq sauce.

Carefully pull the pork. Remove any bones and fatty tissues. You are left with delicious pork roast that is falling apart and you are probably eating bits of it here and there, and that is what is supposed to be going on in your kitchen. At this point I added the reduced roasting liquid to the pulled pork. Serve on top of toasted rolls with coleslaw. I did not have rolls, nor coleslaw, so we had it over jasmine rice and red quinoa with roasted asparagus. Either way, you win. Belly up!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cheap Eats= Legumes!

It is amazing to me, the paths that we each take, to get us to where we are today. I was so hungry for a taste of the world. When I turned 18, I was off. I wanted to learn everything, to see everything, and to taste everything. I have moved more times, that I would need an extra set of hands to count all of the apartments, houses, duplexes, cabins, shacks, and studios I have inhabited. It seems only fitting that I have worked in the food industry throughout my entire drive to 'taste' the world. Moving across the country, and then back to the mid-west, to rural country life, to urban city life, and back again, and then back again, and then back again. It leaves one a bit discombobulated and also broke. Working with food was not only a way for me to feed my desire to learn, to experience different cultures, and cook awesome food, but it was also a way to keep me fed, literally. At 18, with punk rock room mates, flaming red hair, and no real path to anywhere, I was malnourished, tired, broke, and in need of some direction. The culinary arts gave me a focus.  Learning how to braise, julienne, flambe', sharpen knives, and to fold butter into layer upon layer of croissant dough was what I needed. It kept me well fed mentally, spiritually, and in regards to my belly.

My path these days features less struggling, and more positive productivity. I have my focus set, and I am off and running, trying out new paths and blazing new trails. It's much more pleasant with a bit of stability. I am a grounded homeowner, which is very thrilling. I can paint, repair, landscape, and prune trees to my heart's desire, and still have plenty of work left to do well into our 30 year mortgage. My daughter throws me every curve ball she can to keep me on my toes. I am still battling the elements of life, but I'm unarmed and much more civilized.

It's mid- January, and most of my friends, coworkers, and relation are in the same boat as most folks. Broke. The holidays are over, the grueling winter months have set in, and we're all watching the price of propane go up. We could stress out about finances or seasonal affect disorder, or we could get creative, just like those early learning days, and get cooking. I wanted to feature some economical recipes, some old and some new. Recipes that kept me fed on a budget in the past, and recipes that I rely on today. I'm focusing on beans. Legumes are two to four times higher in protein than grains. They're health benefits range from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to offering a high degree of antioxidants and isoflavones. And they are cheap. What's not to love? I've listed my favorite lentil soup recipe from the 'Once Upon a Soup', and a roasted beet recipe we've developed at the Co-op. I hope you enjoy!! Belly up!!

Green Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Indian Spices

1 big yellow onion, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 Tbl unsalted butter
2 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups French green lentils, picked through and rinsed
3 Tbl unsalted butter, clarified, or ghee (you can substitute olive oil)
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup canned coconut milk

1. Saute the onions and garlic in the butter in a large soup pot over high heat, stirring occasionally to keep them from stickeing to the bottom of the pot and burning.  When the onions have begun to reduce in volume, about 5-10 minutes, lower the heat to medium, add the thyme and the turmeric, and continue sauteing, stirring from time to time, for 10-15 more minutes, until the onions are tender and translucent.
2. Add the stock and the lentils, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are soft. 
3. Warm the clarified butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper and saute until the warmth from the butter brings out the aroma of the spices, 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the clarified butter and spices to the soup. Stir in the coconut milk, and cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat, so the flavors blend together.

Roasted Beet Hummus

 4 cups chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 Tbl garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup roasted beets, peeled and chopped

To roast the beet, wrap it in aluminum foil so it looks like a Hershey's Kiss. Place it in a 400 degree oven and roast until tender, about 30 minutes.

In a large food processor place all of the above ingredients except the olive oil.

Turn the food processor on, and while it's blending, drizzle in the olive oil.

Process until the consistency is creamy, adding more water if the mixture seems to stiff. Enjoy!