Monday, January 30, 2012

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup

I have been blessed (and cursed) to live a block away from a Thai food restaurant. I have them plugged into my phone and I've been known to call on my way home from a late night at the office so that the order is ready to pick up by the time I reach my condo. I have visions of me being like Cynthia Nixon's character on Sex in the City who orders Asian food and is on a first name basis with the person answering the phone.

Thai food is a cuisine I really enjoy and haven't really explored cooking until recently. Fortunately I had all the spices readily available in my pantry for this recipe and since it involved a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, this was a pretty simple dish to make. And my condo smelled like I was moonlighting for the Thai restaurant for a good day or two afterward. This makes a lot of soup but unlike a lot of recipes, not one that is easily cut in half. I opted to freeze a bunch of it, something I'm hoping was a good idea.

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup (serves 7)

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups fresh spinach leaves 
  • 1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
  • 1 (5 3/4-ounce) package pad thai noodles (wide rice stick noodles)
  • 1 TB canola oil 
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 1 pound) 
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 2 TB fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 4 small hot red chiles, seeded and chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add spinach and peas to pan; cook for 30 seconds. Remove vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl. Add noodles to pan; cook 3 minutes. Drain; add noodles to spinach mixture in bowl.

Heat canola oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and the next 5 ingredients (through garlic) to pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth to pan, and bring to a boil. Add coconut milk to pan; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken, onions, sugar, and fish sauce to pan; cook for 2 minutes. Pour chicken mixture over noodle mixture in bowl. Stir in cilantro and chiles.

    My only improvement to this would be a little more spice, perhaps more red pepper flake towards the end. Otherwise, extremely flavorful and pretty healthy to boot!

    Friday, January 27, 2012

    Steak Sliders with Applewood Bacon-Cabernet Reduction and Blue Cheese

    This is my last bacon-themed blog post for the week. I'll be starting a new job next week working on health issues so I think I owe it to myself, and those of you out there who read my blog, to offer some more healthy options. So I bid farewell to a week of bacon, by combining meat and more meat, with some cheese thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!

    Steak Sliders with Applewood Bacon-Cabernet Reduction (8 servings)

    • 6 oz applewood smoked bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch wide pieces
    • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
    • 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other full bodied red wine
    • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
    • 1 cup ruby port
    • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
    • Vegetable oil, for brushing grill grates
    • 3 pounds ground sirloin
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 24 mini Hawaiian sweet rolls or slider buns, split and toasted
    • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese

    To prepare the Cabernet reduction, place bacon pieces in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer cooked bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.

    Return skillet with bacon drippings to medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until deep brown and carmelized, about 40 minutes. Add wine, beef broth, port, and thyme, stirring well to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is very thick, almost jam-like, and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 1 hour. Stir in reserved crisped bacon. Set aside.

    To prepare the burgers, assemble a moderately high charcoal fire, preheat a gas gril to medium-high, or heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush grill grates or grill pan with a thin coating of oil using a silicone pastry brush. Shape ground sirloin into 24 (1-inch thick) patties about 2 oz. each. Sprinkle patties generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Place patties on preheated grill and cook until well browned on bottom and almost halfway cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Flip burgers and grill on second side until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes longer for medium-rare.

    Transfer buns to work surface and place burgers on each bun bottom. Spoon Cabernet reduction and sprinkl blue cheese over each burger. Cut in half and serve immediately.

    The Cabernet reduction turned out to be almost like a marmalade and completely made this dish. I think my photographer was dizzy from all the bacon-y goodness when taking this photo. But a good time was had by all!

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Roasted Sweet Potato Spears with Bacon Vinaigrette

    As I mentioned earlier this week, I went to a cooking with bacon class at Sur La Table last weekend. For $69 we made four different dishes, all featuring bacon. Probably my favorite recipe of the class was one of the simplest (despite the long instructions below). In a nutshell, you bake sweet potato fries in bacon grease and then cover in more bacon (with a nice vinaigrette). The sweet and savory result made me go back for seconds. Enjoy!

    Roasted Sweet Potato Spears with Bacon Vinaigrette (8-10 servings)

    • 4 pounds (about 7) medium sweet potatoes
    • 1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 2 TB sherry vinegar
    • 1 TB water

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a rack in the center.

    Peel sweet potatoes, then cut each lengthwise into 6 spears. Cut spears in half crosswise and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

    Place bacon pieces in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 10-12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer cooked bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate.

    Pour bacon fat from skillet through a fine-mesh strainer directly onto the potato spears, tossing well with tongs to coat. Sprinkle spears generously with salt and pepper. Transfer pan to preheated oven and roast, turning spears every 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender and edges are browned, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer roasted potato spears to a heatproof serving dish.

    To prepare bacon vinaigrette, return cooked bacon pieces to a clean, large skillet. Add olive oil and heat over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add shallots, stirring well to combine. Cook, stirring often, until shallots are softened and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in vinegar, water, 1 tsp salt, and several grinds of pepper. Pour hot bacon vinaigrette over roasted potato spears. Toss potatoes well and serve warm.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

    This weekend, I took a class at Sur La Table called "The Ultimate Bacon Menu." Some of the tastiest pig parts were featured in each one of the four courses. I'll include three of these recipes in my blog this week...pacing them out to give my heart a little break. I still smell of bacon this morning.  First up...

    Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese (yields 16 dates)

    • 1/3 cup herbed goat cheese, room temperature
    • 16 Medjool dates, pitted
    • 4 wide, thin slices of prosciutto, each cut into 4 long strips
    • 16 toothpicks, soaked in water for 10 minutes

    Heat broiler on low and place a rack 6 inches from the broiler coil. Spoon 1 teaspoon goat cheese into each date, then wrap each with a prosciutto strip. Secure prosciutto strip with a toothpick.

    Place stuffed dates on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a broiler pan. Place under broiler and cook, turning once, until cheese bubbles, about 3-4 minutes. Remove dates from oven and serve warm.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Rice Pilaf with Chorizo Casserole

    In 2010, I went to Barcelona on vacation with my friend Jennie. Both of us being foodies, we ate our way through countless tapas and sangria. While there, we took a cooking class where we learned to make several different small plates. One of the highlights of this class was an escorted tour of La Boqueira on La Rambla, to pick up various ingredients. Our instructor had an "in" with the person who sold saffron so many of us bought some to bring home. I bought a tiny little container of saffron that I am still using (and I realize it's probably past its prime but the flavor is still there, so I keep using it).

    The candy portion of the market in Barcelona. Heaven.

    Earlier this week I remade one of the dishes I made last year as part of my 52-new recipe resolution. It's kind of a poor man's paella, without all the seafood and taking probably a third of the time to make. Also, it does well as a make ahead meal that you can easily reheat the next day. Full disclosure: this is a Rachel Ray recipe. (

    Rice Pilaf with Chorizo Casserole

    • 1 generous pinch saffron threads, about 20
    • 2 cups chicken stock-in-a-box
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds Spanish style chorizo, 1 package (recommended: Gaspar's or Trois Petit Cochons)
    • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
    • 1 large yellow onion  chopped
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup drained chopped pimientos  peppers
    • 1 cup frozen peas 
    • 1/3 cup dry sherry or 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 1/2 cup broken thin spaghetti 
    • 1 cup long-grain white rice 
    • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

    Put the saffron in small pot with 1 1/2 cups stock and about 1 cup water. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and let steep for a few minutes while you prepare the chorizo and onions.

    Heat a skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. Remove the casings from the chorizo and slice about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, on an angle. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the hot skillet and add the chorizo. Brown evenly on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes total. Remove the chorizo to a plate and add another drizzle of oil to the skillet along with the onions. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pimientos and peas and stir to heat through. Deglaze the pan with sherry or wine and stir 1 to 2 minutes. Remove them from the pan to the plate with the chorizo.

    Return the pan to medium heat and melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the pasta and stir until deeply golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the rice and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.

    Grease a casserole with the remaining 1 tablespoon of softened butter. Fill the casserole with cooked rice and top with an arrangement of the chorizo and onion mixture. Cool and chill as a make-ahead meal. Reheat by dousing the casserole with 1/2 cup chicken stock then put it in the preheated 375 degree F oven, loosely covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for about until heated through and barely crispy at edges, about 10 minutes. Top with parsley and serve.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry

    When I was a kid, I didn't eat anything that was green. Or grown in the ground. I was an extremely picky eater...not necessarily because I didn't like the taste (it was rare I could be convinced to try these foods), but more because I was stubborn. I remember my mom would cook asparagus at various hours during the day, including mid morning which I found to be crazy. My grandparents grew this asparagus in the garden on the farmland they lived on. It's a real shame that I didn't at least try it, because my mother claimed it was just the freshest asparagus there was.

    So here I am...15 years later cooking with all sorts of ingredients from inside the ground, including asparagus. Asparagus is particularly tasty AND cheap this time of year so I have a feeling you'll be seeing a lot of it on the blog in the coming weeks. Last night's offering? One of my favorites from last year.

    Chicken and asparagus stir fry (serves 4)

    • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
    • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
    • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped, divided (I just used powder and it tasted wonderful, but I can't for the life of me tell you how much I put in. Probably somewhere around 1 TB)
    • 1 1/2 TB sugar
    • 1 TB soy sauce
    • 2 tsp cornstarch, divided
    • 1 TB rice wine viengar
    • 1 TB dark sesame oil
    • 1 tsp salt, divided
    • 2 TB peanut oil, divided
    • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
    • 3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 1 TB hoisin sauce
    • 3 TB chopped roasted peanutes
    • Cooked rice, for serving

    In a medium bowl, toss chicken with the sliced scallions, half of each the garlic and the ginger, sugar, soy sauce, 1 tsp. cornstarch, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and 3/4 tsp. salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to marinade.

    In a bowl, whisk together 1 tsp. cornstarch and 3 TB water,then set aside. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 1 TB peanut oil and heat until simmering.  Add the asparagus and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in remaining garlic and ginger, 3 TB water, and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add more water, a TB at a time as needed, to keep skillet from becoming completely dry. Transfer veggies to a plate.

    Return skillet to stove top and warm the remaining 2 TB oil. Add the chicken and its marinade, plus red pepper flakes. Stir-fry until nearly cooked through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the hoisin sauce and asparagus. Give the cornstarch slurry a quick whisk and add to the pan. Simmer stir-fry until thickened, about 2 minutes. Toss in peanuts. Taste and adjust seasoning, serve over rice.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    I finally did it.

    I finally did it. I created a blog about my cooking and eating. Why, do you ask? After a surprisingly successful completion of my 2011 New Year's resolution, and being asked on a weekly basis why I hadn't taken my resolution to the blogosphere, I decided to give the people what they want.

    For those of you who don't already know, in 2011 I vowed to cook one new recipe each week. So by year's end, I had made 52 new things, from casseroles to cookies and soups to salads. I held myself accountable by posting what I made each week on Facebook and when requested, would send links to the recipes I made.

    As part of my 2012 resolution, I've modified the resolution slightly, only making one new dinner meal every other week. However, since I tend to cook A LOT, I'll be revisiting many of the recipes from the past year and make some old favorites.

    And now I'll blog about it. Whenever I cook something, I'll post it. If I go somewhere particularly awesome to eat, I'll write about it. Because food is meant to be enjoyed and shared. So enjoy. :)