Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ginger Chicken Skewers, for 130.

This would be one of the items I made for a friend's wedding recently, but if you're having a few people over for a cocktail party, these would be fairly simple hors d'oeuvre or part of a buffet meal that should be a pretty tasty hit.

This also harkens to my earlier comment about how 40 lbs of chicken breasts can be broken down into roughly 340 satay-style skewers.
Don't forget to soak your skewers in water for about 20 minutes before cooking or they may scorch.
And yes, it takes rather a few hours to break down 40 pounds of bulk chicken breasts, but to give you an idea, each chicken breast should make about 4-5 skewers.

Marinated chicken cubes, ready for skewering
I used the same recipe that I did in my Tangy Asian Chicken/Pork dinner, only multiplied to fit in two giant stock pots to marinate overnight.
That's a lot of soy sauce, honey, garlic, and fresh ginger.
(Thank you, Corrie, for all the grating help!)
Even in larger quantities, I stick with the measurement of equal parts honey and soy sauce, and equal parts garlic and ginger, respectively.

Ready to cook!
If you are making this for just a few people (say, 20-30) I would suggest broiling the skewers for 5-6 minutes total so the chicken remains juicy and tender.
As I was making hundreds, I baked them in a 350º oven for about 18 minutes, knowing they were going to be reheated later and would probably dry out a bit by the second heating.
I just hoped the flavors from the marinade would make up for the slightly dry texture.

Round 1 of about 4
If making this for a smaller group of people, I would suggest reducing the marinade down to a thick dipping sauce for the skewers, but only if you rinsed your chicken well before marinating. If there was any protein "goo" on the chicken your marinade will look like curds and whey. Gross.
An easier option is just to make a second batch of the marinade and reduce the sauce with no worries of contamination or questionable consistency.

Any leftovers you have would be tastily repurposed in a meal like this Quinoa Satay I posted a little while back, but this time you would use chicken stock instead of beef stock.
Either way, it's some tasty chicken!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Roasted Pasta Primavera

You might think that roasting vegetables negates the point of Pasta Primavera, but it doesn't. It just gives the bounty of Spring vegetables a richness and depth of flavor that is different from the freshness you would get from a quick blanching in water.

I start by peeling and chopping carrots, broccoli, and zucchini (not peeled) into similar size pieces for even cooking. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, dried organo, and dried thyme (about a tsp each).
I added some chopped spring onion at the last minute and popped them into a 400º oven for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and just started to caramelize.

I used another spring onion and clove of garlic to gently sauté the cherry tomatoes with a splash olive oil, and later a bit of white wine and chicken stock. 
After about 2 minutes of cooking I added some halved snow peas and turned the heat down to low.

(The tomatoes could be added to the pasta raw, but the Hubs does not like raw tomato. Hence, this lightly simmered sauce.)

Remove roasted veggies from the oven and spread around the sheet tray to pick up the rest of the oil and seasonings. Then toss in the bottom of a big pasta bowl.

As I had some leftover fresh mozzarella, I placed some diced cubes in the bottom of each bowl before adding the pasta.

I placed the just-shy of fully cooked fettuccine in the pot with the tomatoes and liquids to combine flavors and finish cooking. About a minute or two later I toss all of that into the large pasta bowl, add a generous handful of grated pecorino cheese, a drizzle of good olive oil, and toss everything to combine.
I also threw in a moderate chiffonade of basil and some chopped fennel fronds at the end for a bit of freshness.
Divide into the bowls with the diced mozzarella and enjoy.
The heat of the pasta will slightly melt the mozzarella cubes, creating little hidden nuggets of melty cheese.
This is a very healthy and flavorful dish, and if you portion out your servings so they are equal parts vegetables to pasta, you can feel largely guilt-free about a larger portion size!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wanted: See Below

I have not had the patience to sit down and write up anything about last week's cooking marathon and ensuing wedding, so instead I'm going to show you the newest kitchen item I don't need and yet covet.

Those are nesting stoneware measuring bowls available at West Elm, and something tells me that my crappy fire engine red plastic measuring cups, which have been entirely serviceable for the past decade, are about to meet the recycling bin...
Sorry kids.
They're prettier than you.
I guess I'm just shallow like that.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cooking Marathon in Progress...

In case any of you ever need to know, 40 pounds of chicken breasts can make roughly 340 satay skewers, if you use the 6" skewers and three 1" pieces of chicken per skewer.

Also: consider paying someone else to make them!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chimichurri Steak

I love chimichurri sauce. It can come in many permutations, and somehow overcomes my intense dislike of parsley due to the blending of other herbs, garlic, and vinegar.
I go just shy of eating it right off the spoon, but that would be denying the full experience which comes when you add beef to chimichurri.
Extra bonus: it takes about 5 minutes to make, tops.

I followed a recipe by Bobby Flay, because even tho his voice grates on my nerves in the extreme, the man makes some pretty good food. (R.I.P. Bolo)
Tho I'm amazed he managed to leave out some sort of pepper or chile, because while they do not belong in chimichurri, I seriously think Mr. Flay has some sort of OCD when it comes to putting chilies in his dishes. (He put them in the Vidalia Relish that was supposed to accompany this dish, so at least he's consistent.)

Ingredients: 1 cup cilantro, 1 cup parsley, 1/2 cup mint, 4 cloves of garlic (rough chop),  3/4 to 1 cup olive oil, 1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
As I am sometimes overpowered by raw garlic, I place mine in a bowl with some olive oil and microwave it for about 20 seconds to take some of the bite out of it (as I did not want to dirty a pan just for a couple cloves of garlic) before adding it to the food processor.

Give all the herbs a rough chop, throw them in the food processor, add the garlic and about half the red wine vinegar. You can stream in the olive oil or just add it and set the whole thing whirling, as you prefer.
Season and taste the sauce. Some people (like the Hubs) are very sensitive to vinegar, so if it's strong enough for you, stop there. If you like more kick to your sauce, add the rest of the red wine vinegar in and pulse to combine. 
I may dislike the burn of raw garlic, but I enjoy vinegar!

For the steak I used a super simple flank steak (actually half of one, as that will serve 2 people, if you're going by proper portion sizes...) but I made things interesting with some Danish Viking Smoked Sea Salt instead of just regular kosher salt.
Believe me when I tell you this salt is smokey, but in a delicious way, not a "what's burning?" way.
Your guests may wonder how you got that lovely outdoor grill taste when they know you never left the kitchen.

In a hot pan I seared the steak for about 4 minutes per side (medium-high heat) to get a medium to medium rare steak. Flank steak is a chewier cut, so you don't want to go rare on this one.
Let it rest about 7-8 minutes before slicing it against the grain to serve up, and slather with your homemade chimichurri.

I also made some kick-ass roasted potatoes to go along side, and I'm sure I've posted how to make those on here before. But as they take 45 minutes to an hour to cook, I had started them about half an hour before I started cooking the meat. I made the chimichurri then as well, as that gives the flavors time to meld before serving.
(Note: I did take the steak out of the fridge then, as searing cold meat is a no-no.)

I could seriously eat this meal for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. So you might want to make more steak than you need to ensure leftovers!
The chimichurri sauce should keep in your fridge for a day or two, but after that the freshness of the herbs in the vinegar will start to break down too much. (Pesto lasts longer as it has little acid.)
Try using your leftovers on eggs or in various salad dressings.
Get cookin'!

Note: I will be going briefly silent as I am helping cook/cater a friend's wedding of 130 people next week. I have never cooked in quantities like this, so I may be a bit nutty, but I will try to document what I make to post here later. Fingers crossed I've planned things out properly!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Quinoa Satay

No, this is not a post with quinoa somehow impaled on a skewer. Rather it is the use of leftover beef satay, served over quinoa with red spring onion and broccoli*.

I love Thai satay of all kinds: chicken, shrimp, beef - all are tasty, and all would work in this dish. (Just use the chicken stock if you make it with chicken or shrimp, rather than the beef stock I use here.) When I order-in, I frequently get extra orders just so I can have leftovers. And while meat on a stick is very tasty and can make a quick protein snack, this is a way to make a more rounded out meal out of your leftover satay.

*Yes, I make a lot of dishes with broccoli. I happen to really like broccoli, it's very healthy, and I can usually get 2 bunches for about $2-3, so it's a fairly cheap vegetable for how many servings it yields as well. Subsitute whatever you like. Snow peas, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts, bok choy, or bamboo shoots would all go very well in this dish as well.

I start by steaming a bit of broccoli for 2-3 minutes in a few TBSP of water with a pinch of salt. When I remove the lid, most of the water has already boiled/evaporated away, so I add a generous splash of olive oil, reduce the heat to medium, and this time threw in some chopped red spring onion. 

Sadly, that is not a ramp, just a spring onion I chose for it's lovely color, and to add a bit more flavor to the dish. It has more kick than a scallion, but is milder than an onion, like a shallot.
Cook with some of the white/red bulb base, finely sliced, and finely chop some of the green scallion-like tops for garnish.

Since I was just cooking for myself, I only used one satay skewer (even tho I show 2 here.) Removing the beef from the stick, I then slice each piece into more manageable bites.

Toss your meat of choice in with the broccoli and onion (which has cooked down a bit) and add just enough of the matching stock (in this case beef) to cover the bottom of the pan.
Turn the heat back up to medium-high to reduce.
The point of the stock is that it will rehydrate and heat through the slightly tired leftover beef, and also allow the wonderful seasonings on the outside of the meat to flavor the vegetables as well, and create a very small amount of sauce.

By now my quinoa has finished cooking. As always, rinse it very well in a fine mesh strainer before cooking it, and I season (this was 1/2 cup dry) with about a tablespoon or so of standard cooking olive oil (you don't want a super fruity flavor competing here) and salt to taste. The salt I add to the water at the start of cooking, and the olive oil I add when there is barely any liquid still covering the cooking quinoa.

I use the quinoa as a base and then pour the rest of the dish and minimal sauce over the top.
Start to finish this is another healthy 15 minute meal.
If you make it for a group it might take a bit longer, only because you would be using more liquid in the last stage of cooking and so it would take a bit longer to reduce down, but even then it probably only takes 20 minutes.
If you know the secrets to the seasonings on a Thai satay dish, by all means add a bit when you add your meat of choice. I can only guess one or two, so I just let the ample flavor that is already there dilute a bit into the sauce, and it still comes out very tasty.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cinco de Mayo +1

I have not gotten around to typing up my post about my steak dinner with homemade chimichurri, nor have I perfected my recipe (as it was my first try) for homemade tomatillo salsa, a.k.a. Salsa Verde.
So, I'm doing a re-post.
I'm sure you'll forgive me, because it's still a very tasty soup, and maybe you missed the post the first time around!
So check out my Àndale Aztec Soup and keep the celebration going all weekend!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Scallops with Marsala Shiitake Mushrooms & Peas

Super freakin' easy.

Minced 1/4 shallot
Mike was away visiting his family for a few days so I had a minor shellfish festival for one.
I could have eaten this every day, but sadly, scallops can get pricy fast.
As do shiitake mushrooms.
But both are totally worth it.

After you clean your mushrooms with a damp cloth or paper towel and slice them to your desired size, sauté them in a bit of olive oil and butter on medium. (Maybe 1TBSP olive oil and 1 Tsp butter.)
Once they are browned, season with salt, stir, and then set them aside for later.
Do not wipe down the pan.

Add a new TBSP of butter to the pan, and once it melts place your scallops in it. Cook roughly 3 minutes per side.

Once you flip the scallops, add some frozen baby peas to the other side of the pan, as they only need about 3 minutes to heat through, but they can lower the temperature in the pan, so keep them on the opposite side as the scallops.
I also added about 1/4 of a shallot that I had chopped finely in with the peas.
Once the scallops are seared on both sides (but still tender and slightly uncooked at their middle) I remove the scallops, add a splash (1/4 cup) of marsala wine to the pan, add the mushrooms back in, and stir to combine while the wine reduces down to just a small drizzle

Plate it up and drizzle the remaining marsala-butter sauce over the scallops.