Thursday, November 29, 2018

3 C's: Carrots, Curry, Coconut

It was chilly. Rainy. A heavy, unrelenting blanket of grey in the sky. In other words late fall in Portland. My hunger is certainly used to those conditions after a lifetime of experience, and is seemingly undaunted. My brain was listening, and in the post-Thanksgiving need for less indulgence and more rational decision making food-wise, decided soup night was in order. And if you want to eat healthier, what could be better than carrots? Haven't we been drilled since childhood about that? Although I may have some quibble with the supposed effects of improved vision (because I've eaten a shit ton of carrots in my life and my eyes are stubbornly continuing to deteriorate in an alarming manner), this particular recipe I picked up from the NYT cooking site and their formerly resident maven Mark Bittman seemed to fit the current need quite tidily. So onward I went, and after all was (very) easily out together and served, beyond the incredibly good, soul satisfying flavor, my one regret was I didn't make more. When this says "2 servings", it's not kidding. Consider yourself warned!
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Curried Carrot and Coconut Soup
adapted from NY Times/Mark Bittman

2 tbl butter
1/2 sweet yellow onion diced
3/4 lb carrots about 5 large, peeled and cut into coins
1 tsp fresh ginger peeled and grated
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground tumeric
3/4 tsp ground coriander
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Juice from 1/2 lime + more wedges for serving
Fresh cilantro chopped

1-Heat the butter until the foam subsides. Add the diced chopped onions, sprinkle with salt, stir to coat with butter. Add the chopped carrots along with the spices. Stir and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.

2-Add the stock; there should be enough to cover the vegetables. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until the carrots are cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.

3-If you have an immersion blender, purée the soup in the pot. If not, wait until the soup cools slightly, and purée in a food processor. Add enough coconut milk (and a little more stock or water if necessary) to bring the soup to the consistency you want. Adjust the seasoning (depending on the stock you use, you may need more or less salt), and lime juice to taste. Garnish and serve.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Butter Chicken, no torch required!

The two photos accompanying this post makes one thing perfectly clear. That would be that I need to hire a food stylist to take a blow torch to the tops of my chicken thighs to give them that slightly darkened, enticingly crispy exterior. Trust me, the photo that accompanied the recipe for Butter Chicken in the NY Times by Sam Sifton did not go untouched by anyone other than the chef. How do I know this? Not that I'm a food physicist but I think I can state confidently that any dish that is cooked entirely covered in liquid on the stovetop would have a pretty hard time getting its maillard reaction on. Although that torch did a nice job of getting rid of some of that pimply chicken skin. I'll leave it to you discerning readers to guess which pic is mine.

Be that as it may, and the fact that I have yet to indulge my want of aforementioned kitchen torch, this was still a helluva satisfying Indian dish. The word that comes to my mind in describing it is "sumptuous". Of course it's pretty easy to achieve sumptuosity when the dish in question has a stick of butter, a cup and a half of full fat yogurt, and 12 ounces of heavy cream in it. If you think I minded this heart stopping richness then you obviously don't know the disregard I have for my cardiac health. Believe me this was worth a couple of upticks on the scale the next morning. Like so much Indian food that seems complicated this came together in a snap. The list of ingredients looks long but after indulging my lust for sub-constinental cuisine the last few years I had most of it in my pantry. Even if you don't have the ingredients close at hand any item needed is easily available at your local well-stocked supermarket.

Now that I've taken away any objections, just do yourselves a favor and make this okay? Torched or not, it is so very delicious. Having said that I think both W and I both felt that for complexity of flavor and equal ease of cooking we both preferred the recipe for Vij's Family Chicken I posted a few years back (hell, everything I've posted is a few years back at this point). Whichever way you go (and you should go both ways!) it's a definite win-win decision!
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Butter Chicken
from The NY Times/Sam Sifton

1 ½ cups full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 pounds chicken thighs, on the bone
¼ pound unsalted butter
4 teaspoons neutral oil, like vegetable or canola oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 medium-size tomatoes, diced
2 red chiles, like Anaheim, or 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
Kosher salt to taste
⅔ cup chicken stock, low-sodium or homemade
1 ½ cups cream
1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons ground almonds, or finely chopped almonds
½ bunch cilantro leaves, stems removed.

Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala and cumin in a large bowl. Put the chicken in, and coat with the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate (for up to a day).

In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds, and cook until the onions start to brown.

Add the cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chiles and salt, and cook until the chiles are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.

Stir in the cream and tomato paste, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the almonds, cook for an additional 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Garnish with the cilantro leaves. Serve with Basmati rice or naan bread. Chutney too, if desired.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Patience rewarded: 2006 Westrey Pinot Noir "Willamette Valley"

Tonight was exhibit "A" of why I have this little room in my basement filled with way too much wine. And when I say "way too much" I mean "just enough". Nothings better than going downstairs and having choices, especially when very few of them are the wrong one!

The 2006 Oregon vintage was dry and off-the charts hot which led to an early harvest of grapes bursting with sugars but sometimes lacking in overall maturity. This in turn leads to wines with high alcohol and out of balance ripeness. A few winemakers solved this problem by turning on the water hose into the fermenters to try and bring down the alcohols and level out the sugars. Before you act all shocked this is a tried and true method used by generations of winemakers. Not that I condone this kind of manipulation, but it is what it is. I have no idea what happened at Westrey in 2006, but whatever happened was all to the good, because tonight's wine was a killer.

Speaking of tried and true, nothing is a better match than local wild caught salmon off the grill and Oregon pinot noir. The oils & fat of the salmon play so well with the bright acids and high toned fruit inherent in pinot noir. Burgundian pinot is too high toned and subtle, Cali pinot is just too damn ripe. Oregon pinot is simply spot on. So it is with this '06 Westrey Wine Co. "Willamette Valley" bottling which is in the zone as far as drinkability. A bit tight and closed on the nose initially, it soon opened up with beautiful strawberry and spice filled fruit. Richly textured from the heat of '06, but still smelling, tasting, and feeling incredibly delicious. Layered and full on the palate, yet retaining the velvety elegance that makes pinot so sensually pleasing. I'm an hour and a half into the bottle, sadly nearing the end, and it is better than ever. Plums, cumin, earth, raspberry. So good. If you have 2006 pinots from reputable producers, and David Autrey and Amy Wesselman of Westrey are most assuredly of that ilk, pop those corks because the time is now!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Keep your health shit tight, people!

 This food shit is getting fucking serious. Fuck that chocolate that those Hershey bitches keep trying to stuff in your grills. This advice from the ultra funny Thug Kitchen is where it's at, motherfuckers!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Steve McQueen, for real! And other ideas....

Besides seeing a shirtless Steve McQueen, who was anything but a poseur (dude was real!), going all bad ass on a Husqvarna motorcycle in an early '70s Sports Illustrated cover, there's tons of time to waste on a cool blog site I ran across called The Selvedge Yard, whose author has "a passion for people, places, things & ideas of enduring heritage, quality, authenticity & character." Quite a noble cause, n'est pas? Have fun!

Don't Get Complacent: Ca Ri Ga revisited

One of my favorite things about cooking is finding new, better ways to do things. Whether it's technique or improvements to a favorite recipe, the discovery part is always fun. Case in point is the classic Vietnamese curry dish Ca Ri Ga. I've had a version locked and loaded in my repertoire for a few years now (see original post here). It was always delicious, had been made many times before for friends to much praise, and seemed perfect. The lesson here is one should never get complacent, because when I was in a curry-ish mood with a bit of starch craving on the side yesterday morning I entered three words into the awesome epicurious recipe search app: "sweet potato curry". Up popped this recipe, and a few hours later the results appeared as pictured.

This was almost a whole new curry from my previous ca ri ga. Slightly more pungently flavored and definitely brothier. In fact it was the broth that made the whole dish better. Equal parts chicken stock and coconut milk, it had a silky texture yet was not too thick and not too liquidy. Just right. In her notes below recipe author Mai Pham suggests having it with a baguette which I will definitely do next time (although our rice side was excellent). It could also be made vegetarian style by leaving out the chicken, maybe throw in some cauliflower and broccoli or whatever plant based needs you have. The prep was straightforward and simple, and the dish comes together ridiculously easy (both of which always score huge in my book and make this a perfect after work dinner). My mind was opened to a new possibility, my palate was extremely happy, and as much as I loved my old ca ri ga, I have just found a new, better way to edible satisfaction!
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Ca ri ga

from epicurious: The recipe and introductory text below are excerpted from "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" by Mai Pham and are part of our story on Lunar New Year.

"True to the Vietnamese style of curry-making, this recipe is milder and lighter than Indian or Thai curries. You can make this with chicken stock, but the coconut milk adds body and enhances the overall flavor. Depending on my mood and the time of year, I sometimes serve this with a warmed baguette (a French influence) instead of steamed rice. Other times, I just make the curry with more broth and serve it with rice noodles. Like other curries, it's delicious the next day."

yield: Makes 4 Servings

3 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground chili
paste or dried chili flakes, or to taste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled, cut into 3 slices and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups fresh chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal into 2/3-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Garnish (feel free to use any/all):
1/2 cup Asian basil leaves, cut in half
8 sprigs cilantro, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped

1. Combine 2 tablespoons of the curry powder and the salt in a bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat the meat evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a medium pot over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, chili paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon curry powder, and stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the chicken and cook until the edges of the pieces are golden, 3 to 4
minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, ginger and chicken stock. Bring
to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Add
the coconut milk, onion and sweet potato and cook until the vegetables are
tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with Asian basil,
cilantro and scallions, and serve.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cocktail Roulette: my kind of game!

A quite useful piece in the NYT recently for those searching for easy, and inebriating, inspiration. Like playing cocktail version of Russian roulette, only without all those fatal outcomes. Just pick your poison and let the drink selector  name your next drink. How fun is this? I could spend several intoxicating hours playing this game!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

First Bite PDX: The Woodsman Tavern

If that ineffable thing called "feel" is any indication, then the new Woodsman Tavern on SE 46th and Division is in for a good ride. I went with my friend DOR last night, and immediately on walking in got hit with plenty of good vibe. Dark wood paneling, exposed brick walls, white painted wood ceiling, lumberjack themed art on the walls (and flannel on the waiters!), and lights dimmed to a burnished glow all lend a cozy feel. You walk in with the bar stretching out right in front of you, dining areas to the left and right, and even with a full house and people waiting it wasn't too loud. After a quick hello to a few people I knew who were already dining, I gratefully wrapped my lips around a perfect rye Manhattan made by bartender Evan Zimmerman, who was a good get for Woodsman owner/Stumptown Coffee magnate Duane Sorenson.

Smart restaurants, when telling prospective diners there's going to be a wait, always overestimate the time. First it saves grief all around if the wait actually is that long, and if you seat someone sooner than they expect you're halfway to a happy customer before they've had a bite. In our case the estimated 45 wait was actually a much appreciated 30 minutes. We were seated at one of two taller two tops along the wall facing the bar. Not optimal seats, especially if you're someone above 6', as the shelf that juts out from the wall is uncomfortably close, not to mention plants hanging down in front of my face. A little manual adjust solved the foliage problem, but the shelf needs some more thought. We started with the much talked about Domestic Ham Plate ($18). It usually features three different artisan hams from around the U.S., but that night they were out of the Benton's ham. The prosciutto-like La Quercia from Norwalk, Iowa and the milder and saltier Johnston County ham from Smithfield, N.C. were both exceptional. We also had a plate of the Grilled Cauliflower ($9) sitting on a cauliflower purée and topped with thin sliced ham and a squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of pistachios. This really worked, the smoky tender cauliflower with the salty sweet ham a perfect pairing. We were washing down these first few bites with a bottle of the 2008 Palacio Bierzo "Petalos" which I was happy to see on their very reasonably priced wine list. There are a slew of great bottles to be had here for under-$40 on the Woodsman list.

After that promising start we ventured to the main events, in my case a beautifully tender and fatty Pork Loin with shell bean ragout and chili sauce ($26). Perfectly cooked, almost fork tender, dripping juice, and seasoned just right this was one of the best pork loin entrées I've had in a long, long time. DOR had the Skirt Steak with french fries and béarnaise butter ($21), the Woodsman version of the bistro classic steak frites. The steak itself was a bright red medium rare, but really could have used a blast of heat to crust the outside of the meat. It came off kind of limp and underwhelming. The fries suffered the same fate, being unexceptional, almost soggy and lacking texture inside and out. This was only opening day +2 for Woodsman, and with the rest of dinner going so well, I can only assume this is a kitchen finding its feet. We also ordered a bottle of Burle Gigondas, a personal favorite of both of ours, which I think is a steal on their list for $36 a pop. The best of the south of France, big and gutsy and versatile enough to work with almost anything (also if you're inclined check out this French video of winemaking at Burle. I have no idea what they're saying, but having been there and met Damien it's pretty cool to watch). Along with the main plates we ordered two sides, one a relatively uninspired dish of stewed green beans ($4), the other an absurdly delicious savory bread pudding ($6) that was studded with mushrooms and seemingly soaked in butter. Mushrooms, butter, and bread...a very dangerous combination when it's this good, because it is absolutely crave worthy.

We finished with a ginger cake which was fine. It may have been very good, actually, but after the indulgence we had prior it was probably an unneeded overkill. All in all I will definitely look forward to a return visit as there's a much more temptation to explore on the talented chef Jason Barwikowski's menu. Jason's kitchen, for being so new and getting hammered this night, kept up the pace and all of our food came out in a timely manner, which speaks very well of him and his crew and bodes well for future visits. The service was equally up to the task, and it was nice to see Duane watching over it all from the corner. He's a great guy, and if you get a chance to talk with him you'll get a warm welcome. The place was buzzing the whole time we were there, and it seems Duane is getting much love from the food community as Ben Dyer of Laurelhurst Market, David Anderson from Genoa, and Barista coffee owner Billy Wilson were among the throngs.