Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Butter Chicken

I fell in love with butter chicken the first time I had it.  There's something about the flavor of the rich savory sauce that just makes me keep coming back for it.  A flavor I thought would be impossible to match if I dared to try and make this dish on my own.  So I always make a point to order it when I see it on a menu... which is to say, not that often.  When I came across this recipe from Top Chef winner Floyd Cardoz I decided to give it a whirl.  As big Top Chef fans, we saw Floyd compete during his season and I knew a recipe from him would be as good as I was going to get when it comes to butter chicken. Though a bit time consuming, it was well worth the effort and I was surprised that this ended up every bit as good as the butter chicken I've ordered out at restaurants.  Or at least, close enough.  We cut the recipe in half.


For the chicken:
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 small jalapeno chili, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola)
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  •  1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (we substituted with berbere spice blend)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cups yogurt
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs  

For sauce
  • 1 (28 oz.) cans roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
  • 1 small jalapeno chili, seeded and chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3-1/2 cup heavy cream, to taste

Start by marinating the chicken several hours before you plan to make this dish.  In a food processor, combine garlic, ginger, chili, lime juice, oil, salt, and spices. Process until a rough paste forms, then add yogurt and process until smooth. Transfer to a large zip lock bag or leak-proof container and add chicken. Marinate 4 to 6 hours, or overnight.

To cook the chicken, set broiler rack about 4 inches from heat source and preheat broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove chicken from zipper lock bag and wipe off the excess marinade with your hands. 
Lay it out in a single layer on baking sheet and broil until color darkens and some dark blisters form, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken, rotate sheet pan, and broil until color darkens on other side, about 5 minutes. 
Our chicken was so thin it was definitely cooked at this point, but to be safe you can use a thermometer to ensure your chicken reaches 170°F.  There should be some charring on the edges of the chicken.  Set aside to rest, and chop into bite sized pieces after it has cooled. (Try not to eat it all before it even makes it into the sauce!)
Meanwhile, begin making the sauce.  In a medium-large heavy pot, combine tomatoes, water, onion, garlic, ginger, chili, butter, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered at a hard simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.  

Blend the mixture with an immersion blender, or by transferring it to an actual blender in 2 batches.  Keep the sauce over low heat.  Once it is smooth, add the honey, fenugreek, black pepper, and heavy cream.  Stir to combine.  (Note: Floyd strains his sauce so it's completely lump free, but we decided to skip that step)

Season with salt to taste, and add the chopped chicken.  Once it has heated through, serve hot over rice.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Braised Collard Greens

Prepare yourself to be wowed by this delicious collard green recipe!  I'm not sure why we don't make collard greens more often, but I'm definitely going to be more inclined to pick up a bunch when I see them at the store from now on, after making this amazing recipe the other night.  Not to mention they are actually good for you, and relatively inexpensive.  We got a few ideas from other recipes online and created our own blend of ingredients which resulted in tender, tangy, and sweet greens that are full of flavor.  These are sure to liven up any main dish.  Bacon could be omitted for a vegetarian version- just use a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil to cook the onions and garlic.

  • 1 large bunch of collard greens
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 12 oz beer (preferably a lager)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoons hot sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper


Wash the greens and chop off the thick part of the stems.  Slice them into 2 inch strips.  Heat a large pot over medium heat and saute the bacon, stirring occasionally.  
When it just starts to turn brown and crisp around the edges, add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt.  
Continue to saute for about 5-7 minutes, until the onions are translucent and golden.   Having some brown bits stuck on the bottom is a good thing- it means more flavor after deglazing with the beer.  Pour in the beer and scrape the bottom of the pot clean as it reduces.  

Once the beer has reduced by at least half, add the water, hot sauce, molasses, cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  When it comes to a simmer, add the vinegar.  
Start adding the greens slowly, stirring after each handful that gets added to the pot.  They should be mostly covered by the time they are all in the pot and have wilted slightly.  If not, add a little more water.  The greens will reduce quite a bit so you don't need them to be complete covered from the start.  
Bring them to a simmer, covered, and reduce to low.  Cook for about one hour, stirring occasionally.  Taste for more salt and/or hot sauce about half way through.  When they are done, the greens will be more of an olive color and very tender.  The bacon almost melts in your mouth.  And the greens have such delicious flavor it's making me hungry just to think about it.  These are perfect as a side dish to your savory main course.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Berbere Spiced Hummus

After discovering a plethora of Ethiopian foods and spices at a little store 2 blocks away from us we decided to try a few new items.  I immediately grabbed the berbere, which I knew from eating the berbere beef from my favorite food truck.  We ended up with a sizable tub of it and it's become a spice that we use with a lot of foods.  Berbere is a spice blend and it's similar to a chili powder but along with the spicy chiles it could have paprika, garlic, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, or more, all combined into one delicious red powder.  The version we got also has some nice heat.  I thought it would be a good addition to the hummus I was making for our superbowl party, and I was correct in my prediction.  It was also a great opportunity to try out a new hummus tip I had read about- peeling the chick peas.  There's an easily removable skin that pops right off of the chick pea if you squeeze it between your fingers.
We'd never been able to make a really smooth hummus and supposedly peeling the chick peas does the trick.  
I tried it out and we definitely noticed a big difference.  Our guests loved the final product!  And so did we.

  • 1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2 teaspoons berbere spice (or more, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (or more... we didn't measure it)

In a food processor, combine the chick peas, berbere, pepper, lemon juice, garlic, tahini, and 1/4 cup olive oil.  Pulse until well combined.  
homemade tahini
The mixture should be a bit dry.  Slowly add more olive oil until it smooths out to your desired consistency.  We didn't measure as we were doing this, but it seemed to be a lot.  Taste for more salt. Our berbere spice was slightly salty so I didn't need as much as I would usually use.  Serve with more berbere sprinkled on top and a drizzle of olive oil.  As always, homemade pita chips were the perfect pair to eat this delicious hummus!  The berbere spice was a nice change to your regular hummus recipe.  Double or triple the recipe for a larger crowd.  This amount is good as an appetizer for about 6 people.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thai Chicken Stir Fry

This dish is a great way to use up leftover cooked chicken or turkey- in a way where you won't even be able to tell you're using leftovers because of all the flavor.  The first time I made this recipe, believe it or not, was back in high school.  I had just purchased my first cook book (The Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cookbook c1997) and this recipe stood out as being both simple and different from the food I was used to eating at the time. The sweet and spicy flavors of the chicken are complemented well with the lime & parsley rice.  I haven't made it in a while, but it came to mind after we had cooked an entire chicken for chicken soup and had plenty of leftovers.  Luckily it was just as tasty as I remembered!

  • 1 1/2 cups regular long grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 lime, halved 
  • 1 lb cooked shredded chicken or turkey
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • sliced green onion for garnish

Prepare rice: In 3 cups boiling water, heat the rice, salt, and black pepper to boiling over high heat.  Reduce to low; cover and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.  Stir in parsley and juice from half of a lime and keep warm.  

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, cilantro, honey, curry powder, sesame oil, corn starch, and crushed red pepper.   Add 1/2 water and mix until well combined.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over high heat.  Add the sliced red pepper and green onion.  Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir frequently until the red peppers are tender and starting to turn golden.  
Turn heat to medium.  Add the soy sauce mixture and cook for 2 minutes.  Mix in the chicken and stir to coat all of the chicken in the sauce.  

Taste for salt and pepper, adding more if necessary.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes longer. Serve hot over the rice and garnish with sliced green peppers and freshly squeezed lime juice.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Coconut Milk Braised Pork Tenderloin

In our attempt to find a way to combine coconut milk and pork tenderloin we came across many recipes for milk-braised pork loin, which apparently is a pretty popular dish.  It sounds strange, I know, but the result is very tender pork with a rich creamy sauce.   The sauce in our version wasn't as thick as expected, most likely from the use of coconut milk instead of regular milk or cream.  But it gave the dish a very unique flavor along with the cardamom pods and cinnamon.  With a side of roasted Brussels sprouts and a baked potato, it was quite a tasty meal!
  • 1 pork tenderloin (1-1.5 lbs) or two small tenderloins
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup milk 
  • 4 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
  • 4 sage leaves
Pat the pork dry and season well with salt and pepper.  Spread the mustard over the exterior.  

In a dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high and sear the pork on all sides until it is well browned.  Our tenderloin was so large we had to cut it in half and do this in two batches.  
Next, pour both milks into the dutch oven along with the garlic, cinnamon, cardamom and sage.  Add 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until your thermometer reaches 140 degrees F, rotating the pork every 5 minutes.  

Remove the pork to a plate and tent with foil while you reduce the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a medium boil, stirring often.  
After 10-15 minutes, remove the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and sage.  Blend the mixture with an immersion blender until all the garlic is smooth.  Taste the sauce for salt and serve over the sliced pork.  The sauce was delicious on top of the baked potato too.