Tender chicken and shrimp wrapped around sugar cane, grilled, then topped with spicy peanut sauce. Wrap in lettuce leaves and devour, preferably less maniacally than I did, I could not get enough of these.
Sticky. Glossy. Sweet. Tender. Easy. Addictive.
My mom is recovering from major surgery here at our home. She spent the first couple of weeks in a hospital and rehab facility, where the food was...truly awful. I brought her little farmer's market treats like sliced tomatoes and strawberries, to remind her that not all food comes from boxes and cans, but man, the overall effect of feeding healing people crap food is seriously depressing.
She is glad to be here now, noshing what appeals from my endless stream of cooking, and starting to cook for herself again too. She can't eat more than a few bites of anything at a time - and all she's truly hungry for is sweets, ha - but she made herself a killer BLT yesterday, thick with a perfect tomato and a pile of freshly picked lettuce, and managed to eat half of it.
Baby steps on the road to recovery.
She also managed a few bites of this soup, which really hit the spot on a cool, fall day. I love chicken soup for its endless versatility, and of course for its soothing, healing deliciousness. I studded this version with kale, sweet potatoes, garlic, and just a spot of bacon because my mom loves bacon.
I am of her, after all.
This is a nice transitional soup, warm on a cool day, but full of end-of-summer bounty like a garden-ripe tomato. A hint of nutmeg is lovely here, as is a shower of freshly grated Parmesan to finish.
Chicken Soup with Kale, Garlic & Sweet Potatoes
1 roasting chicken, about 3 lbs., patted dry
1 Tbsp. bacon fat or vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, 1 coarsely chopped, 1 diced
6 cloves garlic, 3 smashed, 3 minced
2 ribs celery, 1 halved, 1 diced
2 carrots, 1 halved, 1 diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
6 c. water
1 tsp. Kosher salt plus more to finish
2 slices bacon, diced
1/2 bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale, ribs removed, sliced thin
1 large sweet potato, peeled & diced
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 large garden-ripe tomato, diced
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Make the broth:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat a Dutch oven or casserole with a tight fitting lid over medium high heat. Add the bacon fat or oil and when hot, add the chicken and brown it thoroughly all over. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
Turn heat to down to medium and add the coarsely chopped onion, 3 cloves of smashed garlic, 1 halved rib of celery, 1 halved carrot, and thyme. Stir around for a few minutes, then slowly add the water and 1 tsp. of salt. Nestle the chicken back into the pot and bring stock to a simmer. Cover and transfer to the oven. (Or, turn heat to low and simmer on top of the stove.)
Bake (or simmer) chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until chicken is very tender. Remove chicken from the pot to a cutting board (it might break apart into pieces, which is fine) and let cool for a bit.
Strain stock through a colander into a large bowl. Skim fat from stock. Discard strained vegetables.
Make the soup:
Set the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon to the pan. When the bacon is browned and crisp, add the diced onion, diced garlic, diced celery, diced carrot, kale, sweet potato, and nutmeg. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion is softened. Pour in the stock and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the carrot and sweet potato are tender.
While the soup simmers, tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones.
To serve, stir about half of the chicken into the hot soup (reserving the rest for another use) and taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Divide the diced tomato among soup bowls, ladle soup over the tomatoes, top with black pepper and Parmesan cheese, and serve.
Every Sunday, Nathan and I eat our way through Kingfield Farmers' Market. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that one of our faves is Foxy Falafel. Erica Strait and her crew crank out the best falafel I've ever had. Made from sprouted chickpeas, perfectly crisp and fresh, the falafel is nestled atop crunchy slaw and creamy hummus (I order mine without the pita). Add Foxy's amazing signature sauces and perfect pickles and holy man. So much goodness going on in each bite - heaven!
Erica is also a personal chef and caterer, with a whole catalogue of delicious recipes. She was generous enough to share her popular Herby Chicken Skewers with Cucumber Mint Yogurt Dipping Sauce recipe with me. John and I inhaled these babies, bursting with summer flavor, hot off the grill and swiped through the cool sauce. Foxy recipe at Dara & Co./Minnesota Monthly Magazine.
It is so ridiculously easy and delicious to braise a whole chicken that I do it almost every week, just to have on hand for last-minute meals. I've posted my recipe for chicken braised in coconut milk before, but not some of the other variations I play around with, so hopefully this post will round things out.
If you've made the coconut milk version, you know that a braised chicken achieves a silkiness in texture that a roasted chicken just doesn't achieve. It's almost obscene the way it falls apart into a pile of intensely-flavored goodness, ready to eat as is or perfectly happy to sit in the fridge for a few days getting better and better (that's why I make one so often).
I vary the seasoning profile to keep things interesting - the aforementioned coconut curry; Mexican (dried chiles, salsa, cumin, splash of cream); French (fresh herbs, wine, splash of cream); and this Moroccan version. I suggest that you take the formula below and experiment to your heart's (and palate's) content.
And then, let me know what you come up with!
The carrots in the picture above are the pickled carrots posted below. They are the perfect, crunchy-sweet condiment for tender chicken.
Braised Moroccan Chicken with Saffron Rice
1 roasting chicken
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 medium onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed & peeled
2 Tbsp. harissa
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
2 Tbsp. honey
1 preserved lemon, seeded, chopped
1/2 c. water
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 saffron threads, crumbled
1 c. basmati or long-grain rice
1 1/2 c. water
1 tsp. salt
For the chicken:
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Sprinkle chicken generously with salt, inside and out.
In an oven-safe Dutch oven with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken thoroughly on all sides. Don't rush the process, since the chicken won't brown much while braising.
While chicken browns, in a small skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Grind them in a mortar & pestle and set aside.
When the chicken is thoroughly browned, transfer to a large plate. Add onion and garlic to the pan and saute for 2-3 minutes, then stir in harissa, paprika, ginger, honey, and preserved lemon. Nestle the chicken back into the pot, breast up, and add water to the pan. Bring to a simmer, cover, and set in the oven.
Bake chicken for 1 1/2 hours or until very tender. Transfer chicken from the pot to a cutting board (it may fall apart, which is fine) to cool a bit. Skim fat from pan juices, then puree juices with an immersion blender or in a blender. Return to the pot and season with salt & pepper.
Using your hands, pull chicken meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones (and skin if you don't like it). Add chicken to the pan juices. Serve warm with saffron rice. Or cool, cover, and chill. Reheat gently to serve.
For the rice:
In a large saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. When hot, stir in onion, garlic, saffron, and rice. Saute until onion softens and rice browns a bit, about 10 minutes. Stir in water and salt, bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and cover tightly. Set timer for 20 minutes.
When rice is done, stir with a fork.
Spring may be right around the corner, but I'm freezing right now. Brrr! I keep going out at night without stockings on, dying to wear something other than boots, hoping that because it's now March, 20 degrees will feel more like 50 degrees.
Not that 50 degrees is warm enough to go stockingless either, but if you're from 'round these parts, you know how it goes. When you ride a +100-degree annual temperature swing, it seems perfectly logical to skip stockings while wearing a wool coat and giant scarf.
At least it does to me.
It's all about bridging the seasons, mixing things up. Given hot comfort with bright, fresh flavors, tortilla soup fits my fickle mood. Make it as spicy as you like, then layer in the good stuff - cheese, avocado slices, a squeeze of lime, and of course crunchy tortillas.
It takes a bit longer to start from scratch, but it's so worth it for the rich chicken flavor. You could definitely do this soup in a crockpot of you're so inclined. The final puree gives the soup body and thickness without adding flour or masa.
1 broiler/fryer chicken (2-3 lbs.)
8 c. chicken broth
3 dried guajillo chiles, stems removed, cut into large pieces (guajillos are mild dried chiles, substitute others as you like or add more or less to taste)
1 carrot, halved
1 medium onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 14-oz. can chopped, fire-roasted tomatoes
shredded jack cheese
chopped fresh cilantro
wedges of fresh lime
corn tortilla chips
Place chicken in a large Dutch oven, add the remaining soup ingredients, set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to very low, so that broth barely bubbles (you can also transfer the pot to a 225-degree oven). Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until chicken is falling-apart tender.
Remove chicken from broth and set on a cutting board to cool (it will likely break into pieces as you transfer it). Skim fat and residue from the broth. Using an immersion blender, or a stand blender in small batches, puree the soup and return to the pot.
Remove and discard chicken skin, then remove chicken meat from the bones and cut into bite-size pieces. Add chicken to the pot (if you don't use it all, the remaining chicken makes a terrific chicken salad!). Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with garnishes.
This recipe is a total cheat. It's the same base as the Beef Braised in Coconut Milk I posted awhile back, with a whole chicken in the pot instead of a beef roast. I've been meaning to do this for ages - even last week I picked up a chicken and coconut milk. The store put the chicken in a small brown bag to protect against leakage...and also put a big bottle of olive oil in a similar brown bag to protect the glass...perhaps you can see where this is going. Yeah, I put the olive oil in the fridge and left the chicken on the counter.
We had salmon instead (thank you freezer). I've since tried to screw my head back on straight, which has been seriously tough for me since returning from Costa Rica. My thoughts are still on the beach...
Anyhow, back at it today. I bought a chicken this morning, came home, and immediately browned it in coconut oil - no messing around. In 15 minutes the whole thing was in the oven, and two hours later (perhaps even longer given a ridiculously long bath on my part), oh my goodness. I don't want to sound obscene...but this chicken is obscene. The skin continued to brown, but everything else sort of collapsed and fell apart. I have never, ever, ever had chicken this tender. Silky. The sauce is as thick and sexy as a hot summer evening, intensely chicken-y, perfectly melded with the coconut milk and subtle heat of Thai curry paste.
Beach? What beach?
My plan was to simmer vegetables in the coconut sauce while I pulled the chicken apart (as I wrote it below). Uh, we never got that far. In the name of instant gratification, we kind of attacked the chicken straight away. I put together a quick bowlful for a pic, with zero effort (other than a scattering of scallions), which was supremely lazy but also gives you a sense of how pretty it is on its own.
A pretty girl without makeup, as it were.
Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk
1 Tbsp. coconut oil (or other oil)
1 4-5 lb. roasting chicken
1 small onion, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
zest of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. green or red Thai curry paste (available in the Asian foods section of most grocery stores)
1 can coconut milk (do not use the carton-version of coconut milk, which is actually quite watery; go for a can of rich, thick coconut milk)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce (or more to taste)
1 bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp.)
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh basil
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan and when it is hot, brown the chicken thoroughly, on all sides. Set on a plate.
When the chicken is browned, lower heat to medium, and add onion, garlic, ginger, lime zest, and curry paste and saute for 2-3 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, brown sugar, and fish sauce. Settle chicken into the pan (and any accumulated juices from the plate), baste the chicken with the coconut milk, and cover tightly. Bring to a simmer, then transfer pot to the oven.
Bake for 2-3 hours, or until chicken is browned and very tender. Remove chicken to a cutting board. Set pan over medium heat and when it simmers, stir in bell pepper and simmer uncovered for a few minutes until pepper is tender. Stir in lime juice and taste sauce for seasoning - add more fish sauce for saltiness, more sugar for sweetness, more lime for sourness. Stir in scallions and basil. Meanwhile, pull chicken into bite-sized pieces, discard bones, and add back to the pan. (Note: I love chicken skin, so I included it with the chicken meat. Your choice.) Serve with hot rice, if desired.
I half ruined this whole barbecued chicken and it was still so provocatively delicious that John and I attacked it (and each other, get back!) like wolves. Snip, snap, gone. Wow, dudes, if you have not heeded my unpaid over-representation of the Weber poultry roaster (I have no relationship with Weber), heed it now. It will make your summer. It will! You will dream about the chickens that you impale upon it, the chickens that you roast into sublime, golden (or in this case, blackened) glory, the chickens that almost fall apart when done, insanely juicy and tender and crisp. With just salt and olive oil, or with the dry rub and barbecue sauce below, it matters not. They're all...perfect.
My mistake was the sugar I added to the dry rub before massaging it into the chicken. Dumb, given the blast of searing heat it takes to produce a tender/crisp bird, but it was left over from another recipe (coming soon) and I lazily used it. I've adjusted the recipe below accordingly so your bird will be browned-not-burned.
To roast the chicken plain, read here. To roast it barbecue style, see below. Either way, write me if/when you've tried the roaster, I seriously can't wait to hear how yours turns out - that's how much I know you're going to love this chicken. (That is if you eat meat; and if you don't, no worries, I'll be back soon with plenty of tasty meatless options!)
If you're thinking Memorial Day entertaining...I posted a strawberry shortcakes recipe at Dara & Co./Minnesota Monthly magazine this week. The Easiest Biscuits This Side of Pie, filled with sweetened berries and topped with mounds of freshly whipped cream. Yeah.
Whole Barbecued Chicken
1 4-5 lb. whole chicken, giblets discarded, rinsed and dried
1 Tbsp. each ancho chili powder, salt, garlic powder, and oregano
3 Tbsp. or so white wine or beer
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 c. your favorite barbecue sauce (I like Daddy Sam's)
Preheat grill. In a small bowl, stir together chipotle chili powder, salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Spoon over the chicken and rub thoroughly into the chicken skin. Sprinkle some inside the cavity. (If you haven't touched the dry rub with your hands, store remaining rub for up to 3 months.) Fill receptacle in Weber poultry roaster with white wine or beer, add smashed garlic cloves, replace the receptacle top. Set the chicken, legs side down, over the receptacle. Tuck wings under themselves and push the roaster's plug into the top of the chicken. Place chicken/roaster on hot grill (moderate to around 450-500 degrees on a gas grill) and roast for about 1 hour, or until deeply browned and crisp and a leg moves freely in its socket (you'll even see the skin pulling away from the leg).
Carefully carry the sizzling, splattering chicken/roaster into the house. I set mine on my cooktop because it is so very hot. When the splattering slows, use tongs to remove the roaster's plug and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes, then carve. Serve immediately.