Tag Archives: chicken

Paratha Pie

The United Nations of Comfort

The United Nations of Comfort

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. These days, it’s all about fusion.  Peking duck tacos and curry vinaigrette.  An affiliate of  reinvention, sometimes it’s all that’s left to forge ahead.    Using new ingredients in unexpected ways not only crosses cultural barriers, but elevates our taste buds as well.

A method used by pros to forge new ground, in an expat’s situation it’s built right in.  Substitution is the name of the game and if you can’t get creative you’re doomed to a life of cereal and steamed rice.

Ample time spent with my new English, Irish, Kiwi and South African comrades made me aware of one area in which the US is lacking.  It’s ability to employ pastry for more than just after-dinner delights.  Sure, we’ve all been to a party with pastry-wrapped brie, but it would probably cause a stir to break through a crust and puncture a mushroom.

Happy to have been introduced to the realm of steak and ale, chicken and mushroom and Shepard’s pies, I embrace them wholeheartedly.  Particularly when it rolls around to the comfort food time of year.

I’d been craving a pie recently, and I had some cream of mushroom soup to use up.  I was thinking it’d be just the thing to whip together a filling, but I was faced with one glaring void regarding the crust.  The lack of  an oven.

Realizing I had just the thing, I scurried home and pulled out the parathas from my freezer.  Now, these are a discovery I made about a year ago.  Available from both Emart and Homeplus, they’re a tasty little treat.  With Indian roots, they’re a flat bread intended to serve with curry.  The ones of the Korean variety I’ve noticed have a particularly buttery crispness.  One that would perfectly jive as puff pastry.

I threw together the filling, quickly browned the paratha and we were in business.  The next best thing to a warm bubble bath on a cold autumn eve.  Stay tuned for my alternative for a tub.

Representing India and the United States

Chicken and Mushroom Paratha Pie

Serves 1

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, diced

4 button mushrooms, quartered

1 chicken breast, cubed

1/4 can cream of mushroom soup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp mixed herbs

salt and pepper, to taste

1 frozen parantha

cream cheese, optional

Heat onion in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and beginning to brown.  Add mushrooms and continue to cook another 3-5 minutes.  Toss in the chicken.  Continue to cook until all bits are cooked through.

Pour in soup, Worcestershire, herbs and stir to mix.  Season to taste. Allow to heat through, about 2-3 minutes.  For a treat, you could also stir in some cream cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from pan.  Set aside.

Heat another dry skillet (or wash and heat the same one) to medium heat.  Place the frozen paratha flat in the pan.  Allow to cook until starting to crisp around the edges and puff slightly, then flip.  Repeat until paratha is browned on both sides.  Remove from heat and cut a circle out of the middle.  Fill the hole with the reserved filling and top off with the crispy circle.

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I’d Be Peachy Keen

In these fleeting days of summer, I find myself drawn to the light.  The last rays before the sun drifts behind a hillside.  Don’t go, day, don’t go.

As a chill presents itself in the evening air and the day end creeps dangerously close to dinner time, before we know it, it’s winter.  Under the cover of nightfall, we find ourselves holed up, hunkered down, and ordering in.  In these final days of summer, I refuse to submit.  I’ll keep the picnic dream alive with one last summertime favorite.  Chicken salad — with peaches. Double down or walk away.

I still remember the day of the epiphany.  Apparently pulling one over for years of my youth, I found my mom in the kitchen, passing off canned “chicken” with mayo as the real deal homemade.  Living under the pretense that an aptitude for recipes such as chicken salad came only by way of a generation gap and an arsenal of secret ingredients, I was appalled.  The thought of a dressing untempered by even so much as mustard nearly brought tears to my eyes.  What do you mean that’s all it is? Just, just…mayonnaise?

Appalled at the simplicity, I developed a leniency towards recipes bulked out with cranberries, almonds and the like.  A balanced tang countered with a delicate sweetness.  Not to mention a limited quantity of mayonnaise.

This time looking for something a bit different, I took to the internet.  I landed on a recipe that incorporated Dijon and capers in addition to fresh fruit.  I substituted peaches for fresh grapes, timidly mixed in the capers…and was delighted!  Perfect for those endless summer nights.

Chicken Salad with Peach, Nuts and Capers

Adapted from epicurious.com

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast

5 cups water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup diced peach

1 cup (3 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans, macadamia, whatever you have on hand

3 tablespoons drained capers, chopped

Bring water and bouillon cubes to a boil in a large saucepan, then add chicken and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Drain and cool, then dice into 1-inch chunks.

Meanwhile, stir together yogurt, mayonnaise, and mustard.

Stir chicken and remaining ingredients into dressing with salt and pepper to taste.

(This is, of course, best when eaten alongside a blended margarita.  Keep the summer dreams alive!)

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The Daily Rind

This evening, I had an upswell of shame.  I couldn’t help myself.  I really like chicken and I can do wonders in one pot.  I can’t lie to you, and who am I kidding.  I know I said I’d steer away from this trend, but I can’t handle the guilt.  I’m going to embrace it.  Consider it branding.

According to my highly credible market research (The Next Food Network Star), a cook needs to have a point of view.  Gimmicks can’t hurt either. Rachel’s got her garbage bowl, and I’ve got my aluminum wok.  Are you sick of the photos yet?  Food styling is next on the agenda.

Exactly a week before payday, I find myself upping the ante.  The challenge comes from working with only what’s already stocked.  Couple this with a narrow margin to supplement.  I’ve been sitting on a can of cannellini beans, so I figured it’s now or never.  Coincidentally, I also had a leftover rind from my last wedge of parmesan.  Hours I thought I’d lost forever to Everyday Italian seem to be making a comeback.  If it weren’t for Giada, I’d never know that salty roundness the rind adds to a nice broth. It may be shaping up springtime, but we’re putting the soup on.  I’m hoping to pull some reverse psychology on mama nature and heats things up.

Good news for 'Leave No Trace' - a use for every bit

Chicken Cannellini Bean Soup

Serves 3-4

4 cups water

3 chicken bouillon cubes

1 Tbsp mixed herbs

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 chicken breast, sliced lengthwise in half

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 stalk celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes

parmesan rind (optional)

salt, to taste

1. Put water, bouillon, spices and chicken in medium saucepan (oh!  It’s not one pot! …busted!) over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  When the mixture is boiling, turn off the heat and cover. Allow to sit about 5-10 minutes and breast pieces should be cooked through. Remove chicken, shred and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in an expensive dutch oven (or a flimsy Asian wok).  Saute onion and celery until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Next, add the garlic.  Saute another minute or so until softened, but do not allow the garlic to burn.  Add cannellini beans, tomatoes, reserved poaching liquid and rind.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes.  Return chicken to pan and simmer for another couple of minutes, then serve.  Add salt to taste if needed.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: South by Far East(SXFE) Lineup Announced

Music.  It makes the world go round.  It’s the voice of a culture that echoes for generations.  It can encapsulate a moment in a way we could only dream of articulating.  Subtle riffs to make our worries go away, and heavy timpani to get us fired up.  For me, music is as primal as food and water.  

Like cooking, music draws from a myriad of sources for inspiration.  It is an avenue for the voices of suppression, and it is a lion rejoicing in a victory.  Anything can inspire, be it a python satchel or the writing on the wall. For me, more often than not, I find my inspiration in a bass line.  Whether the music guides me to the dish, or the dish dictates the music, the two are symbiotic.

Currently suffering through a dry spell as far as live music is concerned, I’ve had to get creative to fill the void. Whether I’m crooning to the Stones between bites of Shepard’s pie or it’s meatballs with a side of Sinatra, it helps alleviate the pain.  Nothing quite beats a session at Red Rocks under the stars, but it proves distracting.

My day gig entails hours of mandated presence in front of a dimly lit computer screen.  At times this leads to an existential crisis, and at others it leaves me to sift through the lineup of yet another musical event from which I’ll be excluded.  In recent times, this means I’ve been perusing the endless list of performers at Austin, Texas’ annual South by South West(SXSW) Festival. 

I’ve never been to Austin and I’ve never been to Texas.  For a while, I only knew Texans as a breed that would descend upon the slopes of Colorado in springtime like locusts.  Donning ten gallon hats, ski poles tucked towards the sky, and emitting a broken record of “Yips” and “Yee-haws” while careening at high speeds down the mountain, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them.  

I’ve come to learn a good bit about the city of Austin, and my curiosity has been sparked.  It’s the birthplace of my one true love, Whole Foods (an amazing gourmet/organic food market), and a city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird.” It supposedly has a thriving music scene, and a laid-back ambiance to rival that of Boulder.   Also lying in close proximity to our neighbors to the South, I can only assume the city has a healthy presence of Tex-Mex culinary delights. 

The lineup

With all this, I was left inspired, still in Korea, and with cans of black beans and sweet corn at my disposal.  What I came up with is a taco/fajita filling of sorts.  It struck all the right chords when paired with a flour tortilla and some streaming Grace Potter. 

The dish is given a Korean flair by the addition of Korean chiles, fire roasted over a tiny apartment hot-plate.  Not to worry, the propane essence dissipates in the finished dish and they add just the right amount of kick.  If you can stand it, I think this dish was even better the next day, but either way it’s an easy one-pot meal. 

"Fire" roasted

South by Far East(SXFE) Chicken

Serves 4-6

Tex-Mex vibes

5 large green chiles, sliced lengthwise and deveined

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bell pepper, diced

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chile powder

1 can diced tomatoes

3/4 can black beans

1/2 can sweet corn

1 chicken bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 C. water

salt and pepper, to taste

tortillas or nacho chips, to serve

1.  To roast the chiles, I like to first cut off the stem and slice down the center to devein.  I find this method easier than leaving all the cleaning to the end.  Next, over a medium-high flame on a gas range, roast the chiles skin-side down until the skins have become almost entirely black.  Remove the chile from the flame and transfer immediately to a paper or plastic bag.  Twist the bag closed to allow the steam to loosen the skins.  When the chiles have cooled, easily scrape off the charred skins with your fingers.  Dice the chiles and set aside.

Flavor bass

2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper, then transfer to the hot pan.  Brown the chicken and set aside. 

3.  Lower the heat and saute onion and garlic until beginning to turn golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add bell pepper and diced chiles, saute another 2-3 minutes.   

A nice golden color

4.  Add spices to onion mixture, and stir to mix.  Next, return the chicken to the pan and add all remaining ingredients.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken, shred, and return to mixture.  Simmer uncovered another 5 minutes to allow to thicken. 

5.  Serve with flour tortillas or nacho chips.  Tip: Instead of heating my tortillas in the microwave, I like to throw them on the stove over the open flame for a more authentic flavor.  Heat for a few seconds, and when the tortilla begins to bubble, flip and repeat.  Serve immediately. 

Buen provecho

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A Side Trip to Suwon

With snow mounded in the streets, I’ve been summoning my inner Betty Crocker for ways to make the  evenings a little more toasty in my abode.  An earlier mission for cooked pumpkin (sans my good friend Libby) left me with some extra and, as a by-product, I came up with this tasty stew recipe. 

If you’ve been paying attention, by now you’ve heeded my suggestions and Ma and Pa have put the inaugural care package in the mail. If you missed the memo, or, for those of you who are a little hesitant about indenturing your contact list, here’s an alternative.  You can find most of the rare ingredients called for in a sketchy back alley just across from Suwon Station.  No, I’m not saying 3 hairs from a Thai ladyboy’s back are the secret garnish.  I was referring to the lentils and spice.

After winding through the maze of market streets, if you persevere like Sir Edmund Hillary, on the second floor of a dimly lit building you’ll find the Swoyambhu Restaurant. Run by a transplanted Nepalese family and serving Indian and Nepalese favorites, this place really delivers.  As if the luscious butter chicken and delicate samosas weren’t enough of a draw, next to the counter you’ll find a stash of ingredients that will have you feeling light-headed.  Curry and lentils are plentiful, and they even have dried chickpeas to boot. The packages are large enough to curb at least a couple months of cravings, and once you taste this recipe you’ll be glad you decided to ration.   

Curried Chicken and Pumpkin Lentil Stew

Serves: 3-4

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 Onion, diced

2 Chicken Breasts, cooked and shredded

1 Cup Lentils of any variety (I used green), rinsed

1/2 Can Diced Tomatoes

1 Tbsp. Curry Powder

1/2 tsp Paprika

1/4 tsp Ground Coriander

1/4 tsp Tumeric

2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes

3-4 Cups Hot Water

1 Small Pumpkin, cooked (I sliced the pumkin in half, scooped out the seeds, then cooked in the microwave until soft about 6-8 minutes.  Once cooked, I scooped out the cooked flesh and roughly chopped it.)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and sautee until translucent.  Next, add the chicken, lentils, tomatoes, and spices.  Cook just enough for flavors to meld together and to heat through. Dissolve the chicken bouillon in hot water and add to pot.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer for about 15 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked.  Stir in the pumpkin to finish and season to taste.

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The Tastier Side of Smuggling

WANTED: Individuals with a yearning for adrenaline, a flexibility to adapt to a changing environment, and an ability to work well under pressure.

No, I am not seeking recruits for Human Resources.  I’m talking about mules.  Those willing to conceal in pursuit of  palatable bliss.  

While some have remarked on my emerging transit ring as a bit of a farce, I see the actions I’ve taken as nothing less than crucial.  In Korea, along with ovens, tacos and the evasive cranberry, a proper selection of spices tends to be something of a former life.  In my mind,  not much transcends the explosion of flavor brought on by just the right amount of garam masala.  Give me coriander with a sprinkling of tumeric and I’m in heaven.  With my eye on the prize, I summoned my inner ingenuity. 

Armed with forgotten favors and blackmail, I have lured many into my service.  One by one, they surrender their bounty and then are free to go.  City dwellers bring the Starbucks.  Lime juice is taken on by the loving family back home.  Despite the efficiency of this system, I still yearn for the rush myself.

When the destination for my summer vacation was determined to be Bali, I was giddy at the thought of towering volcanoes and white sand beaches.  Little did I know what the true highlight would be.  While grabbing a quick bite at a cafe in Seminyak, I noticed a steady stream of patrons filtering in and out of a neighboring shop.  Like felines drawn to catnip, all who entered seemed to be blinded by the light.  I soon understood.

Using the restroom as a cover, I excused myself from the table and slipped next door to investigate.  What I found nearly took my breath away.  Garbanzo beans, couscous, Campbell’s Soup, and prosciutto covering the shelves.  In the corner, I spotted Kinder chocolate.  By the time I found the Indian section, I had lost all self-control.  Among the gems, I uncovered Tikka Masala Paste. Now, perhaps I should have considered the weight of the glass jar in my carry-on.  And perhaps I should have prioritized the curry paste, cans of soup, and satchels of dried legumes.  But, do smokers consider the pros and cons of a cigarette before stuffing each one in their mouth? I could make do.

Following a return journey complete with a few nervous bag scans, I stepped into my apartment and wiped the sweat from my brow.  I had made it.  Carefully, I put the Tikka Masala Paste to rest in my cupboard for when the curry itch surfaced once again.

The spicy booty

Now, with a trip to India quickly approaching, I have been stricken with a bit of India-fever.  Sitar music to start the day and a Bollywood classic before bed have fallen into routine.  When the suggestion of curry came up for dinner last night, I was quick  to pony up my secret stash.  The only thing outstanding was naan bread.

Through my stint as boss, I have learned that the best return comes from diversified income.   When I knowingly give multiple mules the same assignment, it is not because I am greedy,  it is only to ensure my bottom line.  In this vein, the need for naan was stratified amongst my acquaintances.  One friend took on  homemade  while another  picked up a package of Paratha  from the local Home Plus.

By the time we convened, a little pillow of dough was resting under a paper towel and the Paratha were ready to go. *After a little clarification  over what the Americans deem “broiling,” the homemade was stuck in the oven and the packaged was slipped in a stove top pan to be charred.   Realizing after the fact that the bread  perhaps should have been stretched out a bit more, the homemade end product  was a little doughy but certainly served the purpose.  The Paratha, on the other hand, was just dreamy. When unwrapped, each slab of dough generally resembled an uncooked tortilla.  When heated on both sides in a pan, the result was crispy yet chewy buttery goodness.  Not greatly distinguished from naan by Wikipedia (an Indian flat-bread that originated in the Indian subcontinent), as far as I’m concerned this discovery has become a new staple.  If only more trips to Bali were in the cards to counter.

The selection

No-yeast Naan Bread

Ingredients:

 

Directions:

  1. Mix together dry ingredients.
  2. Heat oil in pan.
  3. Add milk, egg and yogurt to pan and heat until just warm.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry.
  5. Mix the dough, knead just until held together.
  6. Let rest, covered up to 45 minutes.
  7. On floured surface pat out into two patty shaped surfaces, about 1/2 inch thickness.
  8. Broil under medium heat, turning once.
  9. They will bubble and go slightly brown.

Read more: http://www.food.com/recipe/no-yeast-naan-bread-21155#ixzz1fqdOPVbh

*UPDATED 3/20/2012: After taking a cooking class in India, I learned that the method we used to cook this naan was by no means the best.  The proper technique would be to make the dough into flat patties, then place on the stove top in a lightly oiled pan.  Move around constantly as browning so that it doesn’t stick.  When the initial side starts to brown, flip and proceed with other side.  Next, remove the naan from the pan, and char for just a second on each side over an open stove flame. 

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