Chicken & wine

Our noses have a way of sniffing out nostalgia.

Smell goes into the emotional parts of the brain and the memory parts, whereas words go into thinking parts of the brain. This could explain why memories sparked by smell feel nostalgic and emotional.

I often say that we didn’t have a lot of food traditions growing up, as in Spaghetti Sunday or Taco Tuesday. However, that does not mean that my mom did not make some of her most tried and true recipes over and over. This was one of them. It was made so often there is no hand-written copy that I know of. I saw something similar in one of her recipe books a month ago and asked her about it. She said no that’s not it, and quoted the recipe I was thinking of from memory. Perhaps the fact that once she made this dish for 100 volunteers solidified the ingredients in her mind for eternity.

As I grew older, the only thing I didn’t love is the canned mushrooms. I love mushrooms. I despise canned mushrooms. The original dish also contained cream of chicken soup. Cream soups are hard to find here for some reason. Only a few years ago did they start selling broth in the boxes like I’m used to back in Canada. The lack of canned goods didn’t deter me, though. Besides, I wanted to create a more homey version of this recipe for health reasons and so that I didn’t have to rely on ingredients that I can’t often find.

I think I did it. And when it came out of the oven at the end, I’m not going to lie, my eyes welled up. The smell of an entire childhood of hospitality came rushing back to my mind. It was overwhelming.

It’s really not fancy or earth shattering. But it is one of those dishes that really comfort me just to think about. My family liked it immediately. It will now become a dish that I too make often.

I hope it becomes that for you.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 whole chicken, divided
  • 1/4 cup butter + 5 TAB, divided
  • 3 TAB flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup butter. Starting with skin side down, cook chicken pieces about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer chicken and juices to oven safe dish. Transfer dish to oven and set timer for 20 minutes.

In a small pot, melt 3 TAB butter. Add 3 TAB flour and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes or until thickens. Add milk, chicken broth, white wine, and garlic powder and whisk until slightly thickened, 1 or 2 minutes. Turn off heat.

After 20 minutes of chicken in oven, pour liquid over chicken in oven. Cook for another 20 minutes.

In a large saucepan, melt 2 TAB butter. Cook mushrooms until tender (I like them a little crispy so I don’t overcrowd and wait until they have a golden tint on each side). Add mushrooms to chicken in oven for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Remove from oven. Let rest 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

Chicken zucchini poppers with creamy garlic dip

This is the first recipe I ever published on this blog. I went to edit it the other day and somehow got lost in a foreign and scary editing world from which I could not return. The post had to be trashed and I had to start all over again. So here we go.

A few years ago, our family planned a two month road trip through Canada and the USA. My husband and I wanted to drop some weight before we left so that we could eat our way through two months without worrying too much about our buttons popping off.

Someone at work told him about Whole 30 which was new to us at the time. If you’re not familiar with the program, it’s a no carbs, no dairy, no sugar plan. They suggest you do it for 30 days straight more for health than for weight loss. Of course, we were doing for both.

As men do, he dropped a lot of weight that first month. I was jealous of how good he looked that when he decided to do it again, I joined him. The hardest part for me was no cheese and no wine. I was so used to snacking on a cheese string and a diet coke every single day that I realized it was an ingrained habit. Every day about 11 AM I would find myself staring in the fridge about to grab my mid-morning snack before realizing that neither of those items were on my food list.

After a week or so though, I started to get into it. The challenge for me was to make healthy meals taste great so that my kids and my parents (who at the time were living with us) would also enjoy them. Some things were easy to cut out, others were not. But let me tell you, I sure did feel better. I didn’t cheat once during the month! Quite an accomplishment for me. The best outcome besides the weight loss was that I kicked my two diet cokes a day habit. After 30 days, the taste of diet coke was like metal in my mouth. My husband was thrilled I kicked this habit, he loathes aspartame.

I made these poppers for lunch one day and I was thrilled with the outcome.  The rest of my family put them into a pita and covered them with onions and tomatoes and ate them gyros style. We just ate them as is with a Whole 30 approved sauce and loved them just the same.  

This was the very first recipe I ever blogged so of course when I made it again this week, I had to make a few tweeks and add a nice little garlic sauce on the side. It’s still delicious and good for you! Enjoy guilt free!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2 cups grated zucchini, grated and liquid squeeze out
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TAB sriracha
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • sesame oil for frying

GARLIC SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 TAB mayonnaise
  • 1 TAB olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Poppers: Combine all ingredients except sesame oil in a large bowl. Stir to combine well. Make small patties with your hand, flattening slightly.

To cook on the stove-top:  Heat a drizzle of sesame oil in a large pan over medium heat. Without crowding, fry on each side about 4 minutes or until golden brown and the centers are cooked through.

To bake:  Drizzle a bit of sesame oil onto a baking sheet. Place poppers on sheet, not over-crowding. Bake at 400 degrees 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through. If desired, place under the broiler for an additional 2-3 minutes or until browned on top.

Creamy garlic dip: Combine all ingredients in small bowl and mix well.

Serves 4.

Chicken Flautas

I know, I know, I almost NEVER post Mexican food on here.  But people, you do understand that I live in Mexico, where I can get cheap, fresh, and delicious Mexican food whenever I want, and sometimes, it’s as cheap as if I made it myself.

But then I get to thinking ….. what if I ever move away? Have I learned ANYTHING about Mexican cooking?

And then I hang down my head in shame.

One of the first things my son loved here was taquitos.  Taquitos are corn tortillas filled with a variety of combinations, (a popular one is chicken and cheese), rolled up like a cigar, and then fried and served with all the usual and wonderful Mexican-style toppings.  Flautas are the same thing, except the tortillas are made with flour instead of corn.

I usually just pick up the same flour tortillas that you probably do at your grocery store.  I love the corn ones, and they are fresh and wonderful here, but unless I am using them all within a day or two, the flour ones last better in my fridge, for the seemingly endless amounts of food that my teenage son inhales.

I won’t say that these are ‘authentic’, but to be honest, I’ve had so many different taquitos and flautas in the years that I’ve lived here, I’m not really sure what ‘authentic’ is.  I got my son to critique these when I was testing them, because he’s eaten his fair share.  Once he was pleased, I knew they were good to go.

For the filling, I used an old shredded chicken recipe that we LOVE.  It’s a little saucy, so when i put the chicken in the tortillas, I strained it a little, and saved the sauce to pour on top instead.  It keeps the flauta crunchy when fried but the chicken instead packed with flavor.

When you are rolling, don’t over-fill the tortilla, or put too much of the filling right to the end, or else it will open up or ooze out of the end and make a mess in your pan.  This is what I do:

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Actually that piece of chicken on the right is sticking out a bit too far, I had to push that back in!  And also pictured above is Oaxaca cheese, so don’t get thrown by that.  It’s long and stringy and salty and you can use it too, although we preferred the cotija.

Have you ever tried cotija cheese?  It is very common here and easy to find.  It is a hard cow’s milk cheese that is very salty and crumbly, perfect for holding its shape when tossed on top of a warm flauta.  See if you can find it, it’s a lot like feta, but much stronger of a flavor.  If you can’t find it, use any cheese you like inside, preferably a white, stringy cheese, that is a popular option here also.

I was lazy and used boneless skinless chicken breasts for this.  You can buy chicken pieces  instead and use those and shred them yourself; the meat will be more moist for sure.  Also, the amount of chipotle called for makes this nice and spicy.  Actually, it’s perfect for me, not spicy enough for my daughter and husband, and too spicy for other people …… so you can adjust that to your family’s preference.

So try this on Taco Tuesday, mix things up a little bit, adjust to your liking, and have a great Mexican-style meal!

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 TAB olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 TAB tomato paste
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 chipotle chiles in adobo
  • about 25 flour or corn tortillas
  • about 1 cup cotija cheese or a substitute
  • cilantro as a topping
  • sour cream or Mexican crema
  • 2 avocadoes
  • 1 lime
  • neutral cooking oil for frying

 

DIRECTIONS:

Chicken:

Put some water in the bottom of a heavy saucepan.  Add bay leaves, pinch of salt, and chicken.  Bring water to a boil, then turn down to simmer until chicken is cooked through.  (Thighs and breasts with a bone usually take 1/2 hour, without a bone about half that time).  When chicken is cooked, remove from broth and let cool.  Save the broth.

In a different pot, add olive oil and garlic.  Saute for a minute until garlic starts to lightly sizzle, then add onion and saute for about 6-8 minutes until soft and translucent.  Stir in the cumin, and pinch of salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1 cup of reserved broth and stir to combine.  Let simmer.

Put the chipotles in a blender with a bit of stock and process until it is a chunky paste.  Add to the pot and stir to combine.  Continue to simmer sauce.

Shred the chicken and add to sauce.  Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Simple Avocado sauce (optional):

Remove skin from avocado.  Put in a blender or food processor with a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt.

Assembly:

Lay down a few tortillas at a time on your work space.  Strain a little of the chicken so it’s not too saucy.  Put down a little bit of the chicken mixture and top with the cheese as shown above.  Roll up in cigar like fashion and keep seam side down while you finish rolling.

Heat neutral oil just to cover the bottom of a large saucepan.  Without crowding, place flautas seam side down.  Fry a few minutes on each side, flipping over to ensure even frying.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.  Repeat until all flautas are done.

Top with sour cream, some of the sauce from the chicken or fresh tomatoes instead, cotija cheese, chopped cilantro, and avocado sauce.

Makes about 25 flautas.

**Note: Try freezing them! They freeze well and you can have yummy flautas ready to warm up at a moments notice as a fast snack or meal to go.

Cashew Chicken Curry

Do you ever plod along, looking for new recipes and then re-making those over and over so much that you forget about those old and faithful recipes sitting lost and frayed in your old recipe binder?  No?  Well I do, and this is one of those.

I have been so into making all kinds of strong curry dishes and Indian foods lately, so was pleasantly surprised when I recently stumbled upon this oldie but goody recipe.  To be truthful, it doesn’t have much of a curry flavor at all; I find the cashew flavor more pre-dominant, but I suppose you could change that with more curry.  I kind of like it the way it is.

Cashews aren’t something we have lying around, they are much too costly here.  And frankly, if they were lying around my house, I would eat them all.  I wish my grocery stores had an aisle that was called “Lesley, don’t go down here, your pants already don’t fit”.  In that aisle would be such food items as any cheese known to man, most red wines on the planet, and for sure, the cashew.

Oh boy, I’m getting distracted.  Back to the recipe.

You can use any chicken that you like.   For this recipe I usually buy chicken thighs.   I don’t buy thighs too often, but when I do find ones that are just the right size, I snap them up.  Too big and they seem to take forever to cook.  Too small and it seems like no meat to eat and a waste of time.  Or, if you want to go crazy, use shrimp instead of the chicken.  I’ve tried it and it’s great also.

I have even taken this sauce and smeared it on breaded chicken which has been added to a sandwich.  Don’t judge me.  It’s gooooood.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, divided
  • 1 TAB ginger root, chopped
  • 1 TAB curry paste (I usually use red but green or yellow work, just have less heat)
  • 1 TAB brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 TAB vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs chicken thighs (about 8)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor, blend 3/4 cup cashews until finely chopped.  Add yogurt, 1/4 cup cilantro, ginger root, curry paste, brown sugar, salt and pepper and process until smooth.

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add thighs and brown on each side, about 7 minutes per side. I like a little crisp on the chicken skin over it being soft.  Pour sauce over chicken and add chicken broth.  Combine well and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  (If you find the broth is cooking off, add more broth as you like or even water).  Let sit covered for ten more minutes to rest.  Garnish with more cashews and cilantro and serve alone or over rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala

This dish is a lot like Butter Chicken, but with a little less effort and ingredients.  I love spending time in the kitchen cooking and creating, but I also love whipping up a meal in under an hour that has the family begging for more.  Especially when it’s 42 degrees in my kitchen before the stove or oven gets turned on.

Because some of the official ingredients for authentic Butter Chicken were originally hard to find here in Mexico, Tikka Masala is something I’ve been making for awhile now.  I don’t know about you, but it’s happened more than once that I get scared simply when I hear or read the name of something I’ve never heard of, especially if the dish in question originates from a land far-far-away. That’s what Tikka Masala did to me, even more than Butter Chicken.  I just instantly thought “I’ll never be able to find the ingredients for that”.

Well I was wrong.  The chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices, and the sauce is  simply a cream and tomato sauce with spices that you probably already have in the pantry.  The best part?  You can marinate the chicken in the morning or even the night before and toss it all together in under a half hour for dinner the next day.  Chicken is a meat that takes a long time to take on flavor, so the longer it marinates, the better.  This dish is also better the next day, as those flavors have just sat around in the fridge together, getting to know each other and becoming friendly.

If you want to spice this up, use more cayenne.  My husband and daughter like it a little spicier, but the spices as presented are just perfect for my son and I.

Take your family away to a far away land, right at your dinner table, in under an hour.  And let me know how you liked it!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup plan, sugar free yogurt
  • 1 TAB lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

SAUCE:

  • 2 TAB butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper to taste, cilantro to garnish

DIRECTIONS:

For the marinade, combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk well.  Add chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 24 hours.

For the Masala, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and jalapeno and saute for one minute until flavors release.  Add spices, tomato sauce, and whipping cream.  Simmer on low until sauce thickens about 20 minutes.

As the Masala is simmering, heat a large skillet with a bit of cooking oil.  Cook reserved chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes a batch.  Add chicken to sauce and toss well.  Garnish with cilantro.

No Fail Pie Crust

Chicken Pot Pie

I have been cooking, baking, creating, and serving food for as long as I can remember.  I love it.  Food is a universal language.  No matter where you go, it is one of the things that binds us all together.  Like many of you, I have ‘foodie friends’, ‘music friends’, and definitely maybe even ‘wine friends’.

One of my ‘foodie friends’ came up to me a few months ago with her big brown eyes and a serious request.  Her and her husband were looking to change employment, and, because they both worked at hotels, that meant they couldn’t eat their main meal of the day for free anymore.  Nor would they have the same income to eat out whenever they pleased.  She looked at me and asked if there was any way I could help her learn to up her cooking skills so her and her husband could enjoy good food at home and save some money at the same time.  Along with that, I would like to thank one of the local bottled spaghetti sauce companies for bringing her to me with this request (which shall remain nameless) as she said “my sweet husband made me pasta with (nameless) sauce and I said honey, I love you, but I can’t eat this”.

I just couldn’t say no.  I’m always up for people trying to up their cooking game and sending me pictures of their food with the little hearts-in-the-eyes emoticon.

So I said sure and we set to a loose schedule that worked for both of us.  We started off with chicken schnitzel, the classic Balsamic Penne Pasta, Tikka Masala, to name a few.  She was not as incompetent as she had led me to believe, and so before you know it, when I asked what she wanted to try next, she said Chicken Pot Pie.

I was impressed.  I warned her, pastry is a whole beast on it’s own.  “I’m ready”, she replied. I admired her guts.

Her and her husband arrived a little earlier that day.  First we made the filling and let it cool.  Then we did the pastry.  I had been frightened of pastry for YEARS so wasn’t sure how this was going to go.  But she is a very diligent student and did better than just fine.  I made the first one and she did the second and let me tell you, you couldn’t tell the difference.  Dang, the girl has natural talent.

We pieced our pies together and enjoyed wine while they baked in the oven.  Then I actually made everyone wait while they rested a bit.  They were a bit gooey inside but man, the seasoning was perfect and that crust!  Better than any crust I’ve used before.  The six of us inhaled almost two entire pies that night.  It was comfort food at it’s best.

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I had to make them again and share the recipe with you.  If I can say anything, use a LOT of seasoning.  I don’t mean salt, I mean sage and thyme.  The second time I made it the seasoning wasn’t as strong and I preferred the first attempt.  You can taste test the mixture before you throw it into the pie crust and adjust it as necessary.  Season season season!

And avoid all people with big brown eyes. Don’t do what I did, I married one.

INGREDIENTS:

FILLING:

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in half if too thick
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sage
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced potatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

 

DIRECTIONS:

Make pastry as indicated.

FILLING:

Season chicken breasts.  In a medium saucepan, fry in a little oil until cooked through, a few minutes per side (or roast in an oven for 30 minutes).  Let cool and then dice or shred chicken.

In sauce-pan, melt butter and add vegetables.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.  Add garlic and stir for another minute.  Add flour and stir about 2 minutes until flour is dissolved.  Add chicken broth and stir until thick.  If mixture has too much liquid, add more flour in. Add whipping cream and chicken.  Check seasoning and let cool.

Remove pastry from refrigerator and divide in half.  Roll out on well floured surface and turn into a pie pan.  Spoon filling into crust.  Roll out second dough and lay on top.  If you have too much excess dough, cut around the edges.  Bring the two crusts together and pinch together.  Alternatively, if you have small baking vessels, do not put a crust on the bottom, just spoon in filling and top with

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven.  Cook for about 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.  Cool ten minutes before serving.

Makes one pie or four small pies.

 

Bang Bang Chicken

When we had our little cafe here, a friend of ours asked if we could do something special for her. You see, she was a little older and single and really didn’t like cooking for one.  Would I be able to provide her with 7 meals a week, pre-packaged into individually sized potions and delivered every Sunday?

I had never done anything like this before, but I was willing to try anything to make money at the time.  So in addition to the food I made for the cafe every day, I also scheduled a week’s worth of food for her.  She had lived in different Asian countries for over 20 years, so she mostly asked for rice and chicken dishes, any which was I could come up with.

At first I thought that this was going to be really hard.  After all, at that time, with everything that was going on, I barely wanted to make food for my own family.  But, in reality, this request was totally helping us eat real meals during such a crazy time.  Why? Because I didn’t just make a serving for her, I usually doubled my normal recipes and set aside her portion and froze it in adorable, individual sized freezer bags.  That means, on those crazy nights when I will still cooking until midnight, my children and husband could check what was in the freezer and warm it up in under a few minutes.  Voila.  A homemade meal cooked by mommy and wifie …. just not today.

There are many theories out there as to why this recipe is named the way it is. The most popular one is that they had to bang the chicken on the counter to flatten it, which doesn’t apply here because I like these in chunk rather than flattened. I’d rather like to think it’s because of the zest in the sauce.  Whatever reason, I’m glad it’s around. You can eat it any way you choose: over rice, in a tortilla, or just straight out of the bowl.

Make sure you make extra sauce for dipping, it’s goooooood.

INGREDIENTS:

SAUCE:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Red hot sauce
  • 1 TAB Sriracha
  • 2 TAB honey
  • salt and pepper

CHICKEN:

  • 8 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 TAB garlic powder
  • 1 TAB paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TAB sriracha
  • 2-3 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTIONS:

For the sauce, combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.  In a separate bowl, combine hot sauce, egg, and buttermilk and whisk until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry and combine well.  Add chicken to bowl and toss well to make sure each piece is coated in batter.

Pour about a cup of panko crumbs into a shallow bowl.  Add cooking oil to coat the bottom of your skillet and heat over medium-high. Coat each piece of chicken in the panko and add more breadcrumbs as necessary. Cook chicken for about 3 minutes a side or until cooked through and crispy.  Drain on paper towels.  Repeat until all chicken is cooked. Drizzle with sauce and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Butter Chicken

Why oh why is this dish so good? The cream? The spices? I don’t know.  All I know is I love it so.

A few years back I heard a few of my friends having ‘Butter Chicken cook-offs”, so I knew I could get all the ingredients I needed here, but I never partook.  I was missing out.

Some of these ingredients are harder to find here on the Riviera Maya, but were brought up by my friend from Belize.  You sure do appreciate things and take care of them when you can’t just run out and buy more.  My tandoori masala and fenugreek leaves are triple ziplocked so that the Yucatan humidity won’t destroy them.

If you are wanting to make this for dinner tonight and don’t have all the ingredients, don’t despair. The last time I made this I used chaat masala instead of tandoori and I didn’t have an fenugreek so they were left out.  Still tasted great to me.

Who knew that marinating chicken in yogurt and spices could be so good?  You need to serve this over some basmati or jasmine rice, to help soak up all that saucy goodness. Or, some naan bread wouldn’t hurt either.

Who needs to go out for Indian when you can have it at home?

 

INGREDIENTS:

CHICKEN MARINADE:

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 TAB tandoori masala (i have used chaat masala when i ran out of tandoori)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 TAB cooking oil

BUTTER CHICKEN SAUCE

  • 3 TAB butter
  • 1 TAB canola oil (or any oil without flavour)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 TAB coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, combine tandoori masala, ginger, garlic, and yogurt.  Whisk until smooth.  Add chicken and marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours covered in the refrigerator.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, chili powder, coriander powder, and cumin and cook for about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, let cool for a few minutes.  Add mixture to a blender and puree until smooth.  (Keep that hand on the lid so it doesn’t end up on your ceiling!)

Heat remaining oil in skillet.  Add marinated chicken and cook for about 6-8 minutes or until browned on all sides.  Add the sauce to the pot and heat through.  Once it starts to simmer, add cream and garam masala.  When it regains a simmer, add fenugreek leaves if using.

Serve immediately.

 

Noisy Chicken

When my husband and I discussed moving to Mexico almost 10 years ago, I was afraid.  We had two small children and although I always enjoyed trying new things and having adventures, I wasn’t ready to sell everything and live in a van down by the river drive down in a van to live on the beach.

We picked Playa del Carmen for a few reasons, one of them being that a very good friend of ours had been living here for a few years.  She came down as a single girl to do volunteer work, met a blond Texan, got married and stayed.  I figured if I had someone who was willing to help me out when I needed it, someone that I didn’t feel bad pestering constantly, it would help make the transition easier.

Boy, was I right.

Those first few days, weeks, months, were overwhelming.  I learned that we don’t realize how many things we do without thinking. We know where everything is at the grocery store, and if we don’t, we know how to ask.  I came here not knowing any words for food in Spanish, and stood in the grocery stores not even knowing what to ask for.  I would often just yell to my friend “What’s the word for bacon?” “Tocino”, I would hear, from two aisles away.  She must have answered a million questions those first few months.  And if she didn’t have the answer, she directed me towards people who did.

I don’t know how I would have survived without her help.    I was glad to know that I could repay my gratitude in food and she was happy to accept.  This trade-off worked well between the two of us, and continues to down to this day.  Although it is a little more difficult because she deserted me moved to Guatemala a few years ago,, but when we visit, I still need to feed her.  It actually brings me joy.

Her and her husband were regular fixtures in our home.  They only lived a few blocks away for a few years, and would regularly drop by for a visit, a swim, or a snack.  One time I answered the door and her husband was there.  My husband and I weren’t expecting him and asked what’s up. “I’m here to play Nerf with (our son) Jake”.  Yup, they were family.

One night they were over and it was the usual affair: I was making dinner and she was telling a story.  She is a master story teller.  She makes normal, daily events sound like an adventure beyond proportions.  I was trying something new that night, frying up these chicken thighs on the stove.  My girlfriend is relating some story and I couldn’t hear her very well with sizzling chicken on the stove.  Finally, she says with exaggerated irritation, ‘well if you would finish cooking that noisy chicken, maybe you could hear the story.’

And that is why this is called Noisy Chicken.

It’s probably the easiest thing you’ll make and yet surprisingly fantastic.  If you have a cast iron pan it’s a one pan meal.  If not, just move the thighs from the skillet to a glass pan and continue cooking it that way.  Although the skin won’t be as crispy as if it stays in the cast iron skillet.

**I’m not going to lie here … lately I have been too lazy to even transfer it to the oven. I watch the heat on the stove that it’s not burning hot and sizzle that chicken until nice and crispy and golden. You can see from the pic that my stove cooks a little uneven as some pieces are darker than others. I cook skin side down for a good 12-15 minutes and then flip them over for about another 8 minutes just until they are cooked through. Why am I this lazy? It’s more like I hate turning the oven on in 40 degree weather.

Make it tonight.  But don’t expect to hear what anybody around you is trying to say.  They’ll just have to wait to tell their story. But if it’s your kids and you’ve heard the story before, this may be your saving grace.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 skin-on chicken thighs
  • about 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a cast iron or heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Place chicken skin side down in skillet, fry for about 12-15 minutes.  Rotate chicken around the pan about halfway through cooking time but do NOT turn over.  Transfer skillet to oven that’s been preheated to 450 degrees and cook another 12 minutes with the skin side remaining down.  Flip chicken and continue cooking until meat is cooked through, about another 5 minutes longer.  Transfer to plate, let rest for five minutes before serving.

**see note above

 

Hungarian Chicken

Don’t be mad at me for saying this (especially if you’re a Canadian and it’s anywhere from December to March), but sometimes, just sometimes, I miss winter.  I miss snow lightly falling, fireplaces, coming into a warm house, stomping off the snow, getting some hot chocolate going to warm up the children, or turning the oven on in preparation to make a meal for family or friends in which the scents and warmth please our senses.  It’s such a comforting feeling.

I don’t miss the other parts of winter, the driving, the frozen windshields, the who-is-going-to-warm-up-the-car-for-the-kids battle … but I can’t deny I miss parts of the changing of seasons.  To me, that’s when food was actually comforting, warming, inviting.

I have no objection to spending a whole day slicing, dicing, simmering, steaming, baking, you name it, it’s my happy place.  But lets be honest, those kinds of days don’t always happen when it’s just too hot to do anything but siesta.

This recipe reminds me of a creamy meat stew that’s been simmered on the stove for hours as it warmed up my kitchen on a cold winter day.  But instead, when it’s 30 degrees here, I can whip this up in under 30 minutes and still have comforting food.  You can serve this over rice, mashed potatoes, or try something new, and make this spaetzle.

Try and not get addicted to that sauce.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup butter + 1 TAB
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 TAB paprika
  • about 1/3 cup flour + 2 TAB
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.  In a bowl, combine flour, 1 TAB paprika, salt and pepper and whisk.

Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Melt 1/4 cup butter.  Add chicken and saute until chicken is lightly browned on each side.  Remove chicken from pan.

Add remaining 1 TAB butter to pan and saute onion until it is translucent.  Return chicken to pan.  Add chicken broth and gently simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken (leave broth) from pan and tent loosely with foil.

Remove a ladle of the broth into a small bowl.  Stir 2 TAB flour into the the bowl and whisk well.  Pour mixture back into pan and simmer until the sauce has thickened to your liking.  Add sour cream and return chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce.

Serve with SPAETZLE. 

Serves 6.