Friday, April 24, 2015

Flashback Friday: Spicy Buckwheat Noodles With Leftover Fried Chicken

This post was originally published on May 10, 2013.
Spicy Buckwheat Noodles With Leftover Fried Chicken

For weeks, the Minx has been strongly suggesting that I make some recipes from Fuchsia Dunlop's recent cookbook, Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking. A quick scan of the book made me realize why she was so insistent. The recipes not only look delicious, but they are relatively simple and use ingredients we normally keep around the kitchen. Trouble was, we'd been eating out quite a bit lately and, on the few nights when I would cook at home, there was little time to prepare anything but a fast meal.

Then our schedule settled down and I actually had a day when I could truly ponder a proper dinner. However, we didn't have a whole lot to work with in the fridge. There were three pieces of leftover fried chicken that we picked up at the supermarket a couple days earlier, a random jalapeño pepper, and the usual assortment of vegetables. I decided to flip through the book to see if there was anything I could adapt to cold leftover chicken. When I saw the recipe for spicy buckwheat noodles, I knew I was on the right track. Since I'm a hardcore noodle guy, we always have a wide array of pasta and noodles in the pantry.

Aside from the chicken and buckwheat noodles, the rest of the recipe included seasoning elements which we always keep around. I still had to make some adjustments, though. It turned out I didn't have as much of the buckwheat noodles as I had thought, so I tossed in some leftover linguine (it made a nice black-and-tan effect in the bowl). Also, we were out of chili oil, so I replaced it with sriracha. The recipe calls for shredding the chicken and tossing it in with the noodles, but since I had fried chicken, I couldn't just throw away the crispy skin. I chopped up the now slightly flabby skin into pieces and fried them in a frying pan for about 5 minutes until they were super crispy bits. It made for a pleasant crunchy contrast to the slippery noodles.

Spicy Buckwheat Noodles With Leftover Fried Chicken (adapted from Every Grain of Rice)

3-4 leftover fried chicken legs and/or thighs
5½ ounces dried buckwheat soba noodles
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 clove finely chopped garlic
1 finely chopped jalapeño
1 tablespoon sliced spring onion

Put a pot of water on the stove for boiling the noodles. While you are waiting for the water to boil, break down your fried chicken. Remove the skin (with crispy coating intact), chop it into smallish pieces and put it into a hot pan with about half the cooking oil and fry for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. When the skin is nicely crispy, move to a plate with a paper towel on it. Also while you are waiting, mix together the soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, sugar, sriracha, and garlic in a bowl. Then chop your spring onion and jalapeño and set aside.

When the water is boiling, add a tablespoon or so of salt to the water and put in your buckwheat noodles. The noodles should cook in about two minutes. Drain the water, but leave the noodles in the pot. Put the pot over a medium high heat and add the rest of the cooking oil. Toss in the sauce mixture and the jalapeño. Combine thoroughly, and then add the shredded chicken. When everything is warmed through, place in serving bowls. Sprinkle the spring onion and fried chicken skin on top for garnish.

Serves 2 to 4 people, depending on how hungry everyone is.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Don't Let Paella Scare You

Paella seems like such a luxurious restaurant dish, doesn't it? Usually chock full of shellfish and meats and scented with saffron, this Spanish one-pot meal may be daunting to the home cook. But it really needn't be.

Making paella at home doesn't require any special culinary prowess. There are no fancy techniques involved. And while having a paella pan is a nice touch, you can make it in any large, shallow, flat-bottomed pan that's designed to be used on top of the stove. There are also some standard recipes for paella. The most famous, paella a la Valenciana, calls for chicken, chorizo, and several types of shellfish. But who is going to stop you from using completely different proteins? There is no Paella Police, and you won't get into any trouble if you don't feel like dealing with fresh, in-shell, shellfish, or if you'd prefer to use pork instead of chicken, or kielbasa instead of chorizo. Because it's going to be tasty anyway.

Now, I'm not advocating that you go crazy and stud your paella with chunks of tofu or tempeh or tuna (but hey, you can if you want--I won't be eating it). You also aren't stuck with using particular vegetables. Onion and garlic, of course, are the basis of any tasty savory dish, so they shouldn't be omitted, but you can use green beans, sugar snaps, or edamame in place of the peas, or add something else green, like the asparagus I put in mine. Artichoke hearts are great too, and fennel, but make sure to add these during the initial cooking.

As for seasoning, saffron is traditional, but if you don't have/can't afford saffron, don't worry about it (although it is delicious). If you don't have smoked paprika, use regular paprika. Stir in a handful of chopped parsley or cilantro at the end, even basil, if you have it. I used a bit of chipotle, too, because I wanted a little heat in the dish.

The only ingredient that you should be mindful of is the rice; it should be short grain. While special paella rice is hard to find, pretty much all supermarkets should have arborio (risotto) rice.

No matter what combination of protein and veg you use, follow these simple instructions and you'll have something delicious on your hands.

1. Brown the meat and remove from pan
2. Cook onions in fat rendered from meat
3. Add rice and saute for a few minutes
4. Add non-green veg, seasonings, and stock and return meat to pan
5. When rice is done, add green veg
6. Eat!

Easy Paella

Vegetable oil
4-8 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs
3-5 links Spanish chorizo (I used D'Artagnan brand, which is delish)
1 onion, chopped
1-1 1/2 cups paella rice, or other short grain rice
1-2 cups cherry tomato halves
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch saffron that has been soaking in a few tablespoons of hot tap water or stock (optional)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder or 1 chipotle in adobo (optional)
1 - 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3-5 cups chicken stock, plus more
1/4 - 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
6-10 stalks asparagus
Handful chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)

Heat up 17" paella pan or other very large flat-bottomed pan designed to be used on a stove top. If all you have is a 12" skillet, then use the smaller quantities of ingredients. Put a small splash of oil to the pan, just enough to keep the chicken skin from sticking as soon as it hits the pan. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook over medium heat until well-browned. Turn and brown on other side. While chicken is cooking, add the whole chorizo and turn them occasionally. When chicken is browned, remove all meat from the pan and set aside.

Wipe out some of the chicken fat from the pan, leaving 2 tablespoons or so. Add the onion and cook until softened and slightly brown, 6-8 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat with the fat. Cook for a few minutes, until rice is starting to get toasty, then add the tomatoes and garlic. Add the saffron, paprika, optional chipotle, and salt. Stir well to combine. Pour in the chicken stock, then put the chicken back in, skin side up. Slice the chorizo and scatter around the chicken.

If you're using a large paella pan that fits over two burners, put them both on low heat. Cook until broth has evaporated and rice is no longer crunchy, 20 minutes or so. If the broth is gone and the rice is still crunchy, add more broth. Don't stir the rice during this time; you want some of it to stick and brown on the bottom of the pan. This crunchy layer is called the socarrat and some think it's the tastiest part of a paella. Don't worry if yours doesn't form a socarrat--it will still be delicious.

When the rice is done, add the peas and tuck the asparagus down into the rice. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, to cook the asparagus (and give the socarrat another chance to form).

It's important that the heat be on low or medium low - you don't want the rice to burn.

Serve a big scoop of rice and veg and chorizo and top with a chicken thigh per serving.  Garnish with green herbs.

Serves 4-8.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Bo Ssam (ish)

My brother suggested I make a bo ssam for Easter dinner. Only he didn't really want bo ssam. He just wanted the pork butt. Bo ssam means "wrapped" or "packaged," so the real thing needs to be served with lettuce or cabbage leaves. But I didn't want to go through the trouble of washing and drying lettuce, so didn't even purchase it. Which is why this post has (ish) in the title. It's actually just Momofuku-style pork butt.

In any case, it was delicious. And it's amazing how much pork five people can put away. We decimated that thing in about 45 minutes. Sure, there was a giant Flintstonian bone in it, but we still managed to eat more than half the meat. Plus jarred kimchi and homemade brussels sprout kimchi and lots of rice. And dessert.


Bo Ssam (ish) (adapted from Momofuku)

1 whole bone-in pork butt (8 to 10 pounds)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
5 tablespoons brown sugar

Put the butt into a foil lined baking pan just large enough to hold it (it should fit snugly). Combine the white sugar and salt and rub it all over the pork butt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Discard plastic wrap, make sure butt is skin-side-up in the pan, and roast for about 6 hours, until it's fork tender. Remove pork from the oven. The skin should be a crispy sheet at this point. Lift it; scrape out and discard any soft white fat still under the skin. Put the skin back down, schmear with the brown sugar, and put under the broiler until the sugar melts. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. If it does, no worries - just scrape off the burnt parts. The skin will still be edible and have a nice caramelly flavor to it.

Serve with white rice and kimchi. Make some dipping sauces if you are so inclined. A combination of miso, gochujang, and sherry vinegar loosened up with a bit of oil is nice. And if you want to eat it properly, have some lettuce or napa cabbage leaves available in which to wrap a bit of pork, some skin, kimchi, and sauce.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Parfaits

I get ideas for desserts all the time, but they're usually random things I put together on a weekend and mostly for the blog. Blogging requires attention, you see, and I'm always thinking about it. When I have to come up with a dessert for an occasion of some sort, usually a holiday, I panic a little. It's all well and good to dream up something that only Mr Minx and I are going to eat, but there's more pressure when guests are involved, even if it's family and they're (mostly) non-judgmental about what we put in front of them. But there are always diets and dietary restrictions to think of and what sort of thing will go well with the entree we've just eaten.

I liked the idea of coconut cake for a party dessert. A big ol' yellow layer cake slathered in white icing and mounds of coconut, like the lovely versions at Clementine and the Peppermill. Unfortunately, not everyone likes the texture of coconut shavings. (I'm looking at Mr Minx here.) He doesn't mind the flavor of coconut though, and had in the past suggested that I make Martha Stewart's coconut crunch cake without the macaroon layer. While I agreed that it was a good idea, I still made the cake as written three times. (He did eat it all three times, coconut shavings and all). This time, I decided to do as the poor dear said, because I wanted a flavored cake to use as layers in a mini trifle of sorts, with chocolate pudding and almonds. Sometimes you feel like a nut and all that.

Chocolate Coconut Parfaits

For coconut cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cream of coconut
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs

For pudding:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk
1 large egg
4 ounces semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped

To assemble:
Coconut shavings
Sliced almonds

To make cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a jelly roll pan with a single piece of parchment cut to size. If you are like me, you don't have a jelly roll pan, so just use a smaller baking sheet with sides. Mine is about 9" x 11" but it's very old--YMMV. Cut parchment to size. If you're using a small sheet pan, cut two pieces.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, stir cream of coconut and vanilla.

Beat butter and coconut oil on medium-high until smooth. Slowly add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each and scraping down bowl as needed. Add the cream of coconut mixture and beat until completely mixed. Stir in the flour until just combined.

If you're using a jelly roll pan, you can probably add all of the batter. You don't want it to overflow though, so if there's excess batter, put it in a muffin tin and bake it later. If you're using a smaller pan, put in about 1/3 of the batter and spread smooth. Bake a larger sheet for 20-25 minutes and a smaller sheet 13-17 minutes, until cake springs back when pressed lightly with a finger. Cool on a rack. If you're using a smaller sheet, once cool enough to handle, remove the cake from the pan with the parchment attached. Place a fresh parchment in the pan. Add 1/3 of the batter, spread smooth, and bake 13-17 minutes. You can bake a third cake, if you want, or put the remaining batter in a muffin tin, or a mini loaf cake pan.

When cakes are cool, place them face down on a cutting board large enough to hold them, or, barring that, a clean countertop. Peel off the parchment. If there's cake clinging to the parchment, just scrape it off and eat it - cook's treat.

Using the top of the glass you plan on layering the cake in, cut out at least three rounds per glass. Save the cake scraps for snacking on. Place cake circles between layers of waxed paper and store in a covered container up to overnight, until ready to use.

To make pudding: Whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, and boil, whisking, until pudding is thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Immediately beat egg lightly in a medium heatproof bowl, then very gradually add hot pudding to the egg, whisking constantly. Whisk in chopped chocolate until smooth.

Pour pudding into a bowl with a lid or cover surface with wax paper to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate, covered, until cool, at least 2 hours.

To assemble parfaits: Place a cake round at the bottom of each of six serving glasses. Add two tablespoons of cooled pudding, a big pinch of coconut and another of almonds, then another cake round. Repeat layers, ending with a cake round. Garnish with coconut and almonds.

Serves 8.

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