Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chicken Piccata With Fresh Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Spaghetti

Chicken Piccata, fresh tomato spaghetti, roasted carrots.
Our camera is still broken, so iphone pictures will have to do for now. 

I spent the long weekend visiting friends in NYC for my bachelorette party. This is a particular group of friends--everyone I lived with while studying abroad in London my junior year. All English majors--hard-drinking, foul-mouthed lushes. Even ten years later.
We had a great time, but one particular night felt especially lovely. I was staying with my friend Jessie on E57th, but she's gone out for a date with some dude who was exactly her type (Jewish, single, funny, hairy). So I'd grabbed dinner with my friends Katie and Brian (who met while we were studying abroad) at Patsy's, a place near their building I'd been to, and loved, before. We ordered a family platter of a rich, garlic-studded, tomato-dark, cheesy, spinach-y, penne dish, then went for a walk along the East river.
The food was so good; the company so warm, the city so New York.
Then I left Katie and Brian and went to wait for Jess after her date. I got her a carton of Tasti-D-Lite in anticipation of post-date ice-cream eating and talking, but an hour after settling on her couch with a glass of good wine (she's a pastry chef and her tiny apartment has more wine bottles than square feet) she called me and was like "I'm starving! Let's get food, asap!"
Apparently it was a great date, but they didn't eat! I met her in the lobby of her building and she declared she was craving pasta. We walked a few blocks at one am to an Italian restaurant--there was a piano, the bar was crowded with singing drunks,  the kitchens was open late. Jess ordered bolognese and we shared while she giggled and gave me all the details. Maybe it was my third glass of wine that night, but everything seemed just gorgeous--the french bread and olive oil, the bolognese, the rainy NY night out the window.
It was a lovely weekend, and reminded me how lucky I am to have friends who've known me forever. It also reminded me how great regular Italian food is. There are very few regular Italian restaurants in Denver--only fancy ones. Mores the pity.
So I returned to Denver just wanting to make pasta and classic Italian food. So, tonight: chicken piccata! I made a fresh tomato and roasted red pepper spaghetti to go with, as well as some roasted carrots.
It was lovely: tangy, salty, sweet, garlicky, rich. I used pounded chicken thighs for the piccata and they tasted fantastic.
Roast carrots and piccata sauce

Chicken Piccata 
This recipe makes a lot of sauce--because I think that's the best part. Other piccata recipes have about half this much garlic, capers, wine, lemon. 

4 chicken thigh fillets, pounded flat (How to pound flat: put cutlet in a freezer bag and smash with a frying pan until flat and even) 
Black pepper 
Smoked paprika 
1/4 cup flour 
Olive oil 
3/4 cup white wine 
Juice of 3 lemons 
3 TB capers, chopped 
6 cloves of garlic, chopped 

What to do

After you've pounded the chicken thighs flat, sprinkle them on eat side with salt, pepper, and paprika. Then, dredge each cutlet in flour on both sides. Set aside. 
Chop the capers and garlic. Aim for nearly minced. 
Juice the lemons and get the wine ready (I put these in the same cup). 
Get some oil hot in a frying pan (enough to cover the bottom). When shimmering, add the cutlets, two at a time, giving each enough room so that they don't touch. Cook on each side until golden brown (3-4 min per side, depending on the heat of the oil). Repeat with the remaining cutlets. 
Put the cooked cutlets in a dish to rest while you make the sauce. 
Toss the chopped garlic and capers into the remaining hot oil you cooked the chicken in. Cook for about a minute, then add the wine and lemon juice. Cook for about 3 minutes at a high heat--you want it to boil for a bit to meld the flavors and take the alcohol out of the wine. As you cook, scrape the bottom of the pan to get any leftover burned bits into the sauce. 
Pour over the chicken! Serve with pasta! 

Fresh tomato spaghetti

1 package of spaghetti 
1 carton of grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped 
2 roasted red bell peppers, chopped (I roasted my own but canned works too) 
Salt, pepper, olive oil 

What to do: 
Cook the spaghetti. Just before it's done, add the chopped tomatoes and bell peppers and cook for another minute. Season with salt and pepper and give a light drizzle of olive oil. Serve with parmesan if you want.

Roasted Carrots 

Put carrots into a pan. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and mix around, so each carrot is lightly coated. Roast at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes--the outside should be slightly blistered looking. 
Serve with a drizzle of balsamic, or with nothing. Roasting carrots makes them sweet and creamy and delicious. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hoisin-Glazed Duck Confit

Confit duck legs with soy-ginger noodles 
I have been on a serious Asian-food kick lately, thanks to my strong drive to return to the Pacific Ocean Market on Alameda as often as possible. But: our camera is having issues so much of these cooking projects will live on only in our memories.
But: I started this duck confit before the camera got sick, so I wanted to include it.
To "confit" something means to slow cook it in it's own fat, thereby preserving it. Once cooked, it can remain bathing in cold fat in the fridge for months, growing duckier and more delicious with each passing day. I aged mine for about a week, then took the legs out of the fat, brushed them with a mix of hoisin, lime, and chili oil, baked them then broiled them.
The result was incredibly soft, incredibly ducky meat with crispy skin. I made a big batch of noodles with veggies to go with and we ate on the porch. A lovely night.
How can you walk past duck legs and not purchase? You cannot. 
I marinated them in soy, sesame oil, salt and sugar. 
Luckily, I had some duck fat on hand, reserved in the fridge from previous roast ducks. This tub of grease moved between houses with us.
Ultimately, I didn't have enough duc fat to cover the legs entirely, so I added canola oil as well. 
I cooked them overnight at 185. 
Then put them in a container and poured the fat over them. Left in the fridge for a week. 
Hoisin-Glazed Duck Confit

4 duck legs, or more if you have a large enough pot 

Duck fat. (This is a very hard ingredient to buy. What I do is save the fat every time I roast a duck and use that. If you don't have duck fat, you can use oil.) 
1 cup soy sauce 
dash sesame oil 
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice 
1/2 cup sugar 
4 TB kosher salt 
1 head of garlic

3 TB hoisin sauce
juice of 2 limes 
1 tsp chili oil

What to do: 
Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, 5 spice, sugar, and salt in a ziplock bag or a large bowl. Add the duck legs and let the sit in the marinade overnight or for at least a few hours.
Take the duck legs out and shake the marinade off (but don't rinse). Place them in the bottom of a pot or braising dish, and cover them entirely with duck fat or oil. Slice the top off the head of garlic and add it to the pot whole.
Turn the oven on to 185 and put the pot of legs in. Go to bed. 
Wake up and jump out of bed, excited about confit. Run downstairs and remove the pot from the oven. Allow to cool for about an hour, then remove the duck legs to a storage container (I used tupperware) and cover with fat. Seal and refrigerate. 
Leave in the fridge for days or weeks. 
When you're ready to eat them, remove the legs from the fat. Shake off as much of the fat as you can and place them skin-sde up on a cookie sheet. Turn the oven on to 400. Mix the hoisin, lime juice, and chili oil together and brush onto the leg legs on both sides. Roast at 400 for about 25 minutes. Then, take the legs out and brush again with glaze. Turn the the over to high broil and put the legs back in for 3-5 minutes--you want the skin crispy--a little char is ok. 
Allow to rest for 5 minutes, then serve. 

I served this with a noodle dish heavy on acid, herbs and spice--the freshness was a great counterpoint to the rich duck.
It was DELICIOUS, and really not particularly hard. Will be making this over and over!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Hello, summer! 
Nobody needs a recipe for steamed lobsters: you boil the lobster for 7 minutes, until its shell is red. But I wanted to write about the lobsters to let you know the REAL story in this dinner, the most exciting cooking destination in Denver: the Pacific Ocean Marketplace.
Go here and see experience the magic for yourself. 
Oh my gosh. SO many amazing things you cannot find elsewhere (well, maybe the other Asian markets on Alameda or Federal). Fresh rice noodles in a million shapes and thicknesses; ducks: fresh, frozen, roasted for takeaway ($16 for a whole, $8 for a half); pork bellies, whole or in slices; whole stalks of lemongrass, Japanese eggplants, big bags of fresh sprouts, five varieties of basil, "lesser ginger", kaffir limes, tiny chiles in a million colors; and SEAFOOD: live lobsters in tanks ($12 a pound), swimming fish, live crabs, whole snappers and other fish, shrimps with their heads on (so much better for stock!). It is PHENOMENAL. I get so excited wandering around in there: I am working on perfecting my from-scratch pad thai and will include the recipe once it's perfect.
So this place is pure cooking inspiration. After I went there the first time, I came home and babbled on and on to Adam about all the stuff and things I might cook with it. So when we were buying tadpoles for the pond on that side of town, he had the brilliant idea of picking up some lobsters for dinner. We got four and invited Adam's brother and his friend over too.
This bag is....
full of lobsters!
After 7 minutes. 
The perfect meal to eat on the deck. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Biscuits and Gravy

The pictures in this post are kind of blurry--I didn't realize my lens had butter on it. 
I love making breakfast on Saturdays. Waking up late, drinking coffee or bloody marys (maries?) on the couch, watching Inglorious Bastards yet again, and of course making something for breakfast from whatever happens to be in the fridge.
So what did I have today? Buttermilk, which I always seem to have lately. One leftover smoked chorizo...idea! Biscuits and gravy!
First, I made buttermilk biscuits.

Buttermilk Biscuits 

  • 1 cup melted butter 
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp white sugar 
  • 1 TB baking powder 
  • 1 tsp black powder
Pre-heat oven to 400. Grease a cookie sheet. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Round into balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 for 25-30 min, or until golden brown. 


While the biscuits are baking, make the gravy. I made a bacon-and-chorizo gravy, but you can use any meat you'd like. 

Bacon and Chorizo Gravy 

  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 chorizo sausage (or any kind of sausage), chopped 
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 1/3 cup flour 
  • 2 cups milk (add more if needed to thin)
  • pinch salt 
  • pinch black pepper 
  • dash of hot sauce 
What to do 
Crisp the bacon and sausage in a skillet. Cook until a lot of the fat has rendered out. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently. until golden-colored (about 10 minutes). Then, add the flour. Cook in the fat for about five minutes. It should develop a sweet, nutty smell. Turn the burner off and pour in the milk. Stir around to get the bits off the bottom. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. 

Pour gravy over biscuits! I like to dribble some hot sauce over mine. 

Have this for breakfast, and you've eaten heartily enough to, say fight the Protestants. Walk from Galway to Kilkenney. Chase down a  wayward cow. Something like that. 
We, however, just sat around the house thinking of names for our new tadpoles. All four are now known as Wiggles. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chicken Burgers

A basil-garlic chicken burger, topped with chimichurri and avocado. Side of sweet potato steak fries and green beans. Lovely Monday night dinner. 
I've had some issues about spending an obscene amount of money on our everyday food. It comes from being in the grocery store and saying to myself "What's the absolute best-tasting thing I could make tonight?" and answering something along the lines of "roast lamb! duck breasts!" then buying whatever I want (plus a decent bottle of wine) then arriving home to my similarly hedonistic fiance who's like "this IS delicious! Money-schmuney! Feed me! Fuck finances!"
And yet. Some nagging voice  is like "spend LESS than your mortgage on food" so I have been trying to nix the aged rib-eyes with stuff I perceive as cheap: chicken, carrots, potatoes, blocks of cheddar, generic bacon, etc.
So chicken burgers! These came out GREAT and I made an important discovery: you can grind meat in a food processor! I made a chimichurri sauce go on top, sweet potato steak fries, and some steamed green beans.
I wanted to grind the chicken myself because I find the pre-ground stuff in the package take like cardboard erasers. It's too lean.

Throw about 3 pounds of chicken thighs into the food processor. Add four cloves of garlic and the juice of one lemon, plus a teaspoon of salt and another of pepper.

Pulse several times. Transfer to another bowl.

Chop up a package of basil leaves, then add them to the mix.
Form into burgers and bake at 450 for about 20 minutes. 
Before baking.
Cover with chimichurri, avocado slices, and Swiss cheese and serve on toasted buns. 
Also: sweet potato fries. Slice whole sweet potatoes into thick wedges. Toss in a few TB of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake on a cookie sheet at 450 for 25 min. 

This was a delicious weeknight meal!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Jerk Grilled Chicken with Coconut Rice and Peas

My senior year of college, I acquired a pretty shitty and stressful job as the manager of the after school program at the Binghamton YMCA. I thought having this on my resume would help me get into TFA, which apparently it did. I had kids from age 3-12. The just-out-of-jail residents of the hotel on the upper floors were inevitably setting off the smoke alarms when I had the little kids in the pool, causing us to have to hustle outdoors into the street, with icicles forming on the kids' chlorine-y hair while they shivered and begged to go back in. My program had a bitter standoff with the old white ladies of water aerobics, who wanted us banned from the pool. This was, in my opinion, 95% due to racism, 5% due to the fact that, objectively, it's hilarious to cannonball into the middle of a water-aerobics class.
One mom was late to get her daughter and niece more often than she was on time. But: she ran a soul food / Jamaican restaurant in downtown Binghamton (The Carribbean Spot) and whenever she was late, she would bring a styrofoam plate of whatever that night's special was to make it up to me.
That was the first time I tried jerk, and I loved it. Kadeeja's mom (just remembered her name) made jerk chicken, jerk chop, jerk goat. It was spicy, tangy, sweet, and rich, the meat swimming in a sticky sauce that leaked into the rice. She also made curry oxtail, fried catfish breaded in cornmeal, and shrimp stew. So this was a VERY good deal for me.
I have been making jerk chicken for a couple years. Some things about it ALWAYS turn out perfect: the marinade in invariably delicious. The sauce made from the leftover marinade is TO DIE. And coconut rice and peas is the BEST.
 But--I cannot grill chicken 75% of the time. The grill gets too hot, not hot enough, etc etc etc. When I do get it right, it seems random.
This jerk chicken was no exception. It stuck to the grill and turned out super-soft and somewhat shredded.
But it was still delicious.


About 6 pounds of chicken, in whatever form you prefer. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. 
3 scallions, chopped
10  large garlic cloves, chopped (about a head of garlic)
2 habaneros, whole
Juice of 6 limes
3 TB soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 TB salt
3 TB brown sugar
2 TB allspice berries 
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 TB cinnamon 
About a 4 inch piece of ginger, chopped 

What to do 
1. Put the scallions, garlic, habaneros, lime juice, soy sauce, oil, sugar. allspice, pepper, cinnamon, and ginger into the blender and blitz it smooth. 

2. Put the chicken in a bag and cover with the marinade

4. Leave the marinating chicken in the fridge overnight. 
5. Get the chicken out and shake any excess marinade off of the pieces of chicken. Get your grill going, 
6. Put whatever leftover marinade you have into a small saucepan. Add half a cup of water, a few (10?) allspice berries, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and a TB of soy sauce. Simmer into a syrup--now you have jerk sauce! 
Jerk sauce on the way!
7. Grill the chicken. I can't totally offer good tips here, because I always do it wrong. Perhaps you know how to do this better than I. 
This pug is hatching schemes. 
Chicken falling apart on the grill. 
8. Drizzle the jerk sauce over the grilled chicken. 

Serve with coconut rice and peas! 

Recipe for coconut rice and peas

Cook 2.5 cups of white rice with a can of coconut milk and a can of water. Add 1 tsp of turmeric and frozen peas. 

In summary, this was nowhere near as good as the free I'm Sorry jerk chicken back in Binghamton. But it was still really, really good. And the rice and peas is fantastic. Maybe I will eventually get the hang of grilling chicken. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chorizo Black Bean Soup

Perfect dinner for a snowy night.
This has been a go-to recipe in my life for years (ever since I moved back to the US and lived somewhere with temperatures low enough to permit the consumption of hot soup). This is essentially a bean and vegetable soup or stew, with chorizo functioning as a seasoning. It is rich, spicy, complex and totally delicious. You would never guess from tasting that the vast majority of the soup is vegetables.
For this recipe, I prefer the dirtiest kind of chorizo: the mushy Mexican brand in a plastic tube, not the fresh kind from the butchers or the classy cured Spanish kind. This one tastes the best and blends smoothly into the broth, rather than forming chunks. I know it's made if nitrates and pig bungholes, but whatever. Buy one of the kinds with an offensive racial stereotype as the logo.


1 package of pork chorizo
3 cans of black beans, drained
2 red onions, diced
4 carrots, split lengthwise and chopped
4 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped (leave seeds in if you want spicy, omit seeds for more mild)
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
3 TB cumin powder
1 TB chile powder
1 TB paprika
1 cup orange juice
juice of 2 limes
2 tsp salt
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Optional garnishes: avocado slices, cheddar cheese, sour cream, hot salsa

What to do:
1. Add a small amount of oil the bottom of a large pot. Add the onion, carrots, and chorizo. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until greasy and fragrant and the chorizo oil has coated everything.
That chorizo looks like a turd....

2. Then, add the spices: cumin, chile, and paprika. Let the spices fry a bit in the chorizo fat for a few minutes to release fragrances and enhance the flavor.

3. Then, add the peppers (both red and jalapeno) and tomatoes to the pot. Cover and let cook for about ten minutes, stirring every few minutes.
4. Add the stock (or water), black beans, and orange juice to the pot. Cover and simmer on low for about 20 minutes.
5. Then, use a slotted spoon and scoop about half the solids into a blender. Blend up, then add back to the pot.

6. Simmer for about ten more minutes.
7. Taste. Does it need salt?
8. Turn off the heat and stir in chopped cilantro and lime juice.

9. Serve with garnishes!

This is a delicious everyday recipe. Enjoy!