Today’s Salad: Poached Egg & Arugula

20130514-162145.jpg

Honestly, a poached egg improves just about anything!

Today’s salad is a healthy little number. I poached an egg and perched it atop a mound of wild arugula, chopped cooked turkey bacon, shaved red onion, and little croutons made from toasted Ezekial bread (a sprouted-grain loaf). The dressing is a simple combination of a little white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, lemon juice, agave nectar, and extra virgin olive oil. A scattering of chives and bit of bright green basil oil completed the dish. It was light and lovely.

Roasted Paprika-Rubbed “Rock N Roll” Chicken Wings

IMG_1529

Overnight marinating makes these wings super-flavor-flav!

You guys know how much I just LOVE chicken wings, don’t ya? To give you some idea I’ve already published five other posts about wings and I’m sure I’ve alluded to wings in at least six other posts (I’ve linked to the good ones below.) There’s not much more I can add to the pre-existing wing conversation; however, I will reiterate that I absolutely love crisp & chewy skin, I adore the moist tender meat within, and I find irresistible what I like to call the “primal gnaw”, that nearly instinctual desire to chew cooked meat off of bones, using only your hands, in a greasy-fingered manner that recalls primitive man. It’s primal and messy and communal and well, fun.

My usual M.O. when making wings is to par-cook them; first I’ll bake them at a low temperature until about 80% cooked and then I’ll fry them until crisp. This two-pronged approach yields perfectly crisp wings every time. However, cooking them this way means you can’t really infuse the chicken itself with a lot of other flavorings (dried spices and marinades will dissipate the instant the wing hits the hot oil) and you need a finishing sauce of some kind to add some zest — classic Buffalo sauce, bbq sauce, honey-soy sauces, etc. I love the sauces, don’t get me wrong, but the longer the wings are saturated with sauce the father away they get from the skin-crunch ideal.

And of course you can achieve very flavorful wings with other methods — low-oil skillet-frying, grilling — but they don’t come close to deep-frying for crispy skin. I wanted a wing that was shot-through with flavor but came close to the great crispity-crunchity of fried wings. After a little tinkering I found a method that was worth sharing: high-heat roasting wings that have been coated with a moist dry rub, finished under the broil. The results were awesome — crisp and flavorful with no moist sauce to undercut the crunch. I ended up drizzling the still-hot wings with a wee bit of honey and they were AWESOME!

You’ll need:

  • 12 largish chicken wings (tips removed) cut into 24 individual pieces
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese cooking wine) or anything similar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus a little extra when you cook them
  • honey for a last-minute drizzle

Now do this:

Put the cut wings into a large mixing bowl. Mix all the dried spices together and dump it over the wings. Using your hands coat the wings thoroughly with spices. Add the mirin, the soy sauce, and the oil. Coat wings thoroughly with wet ingredients and stick them into a ziploc bag. Wait impatiently for 24 hours. Preheat oven to 525º.

Place wings on a rack set over a sheet pan. Roast wings for 10 or 12 minutes or until the edges of the wings look crisp but not charred. Remove the pan from the oven and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes. Set the oven to broil and place a rack about six inches from the heating element.

Drizzle a little vegetable oil on the “up-side” of the wings. Broil 1 or 2 minutes or until nicely crunchy and a bit charred. Flip the wings and repeat the oil and the broil. Congrats! Your wings are finished.

Drizzle with a little honey if you wish.

Why are they called Rock N Roll Wings? Why not? They rock.

Check out my earlier wing-related posts:

Crispy Wok-Fried Wings: https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/crispy-wok-fried-chicken-wings/

Honey-Ginger Chicken Wings, Again: https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/honey-ginger-chicken-wings-again/

Late-Night-Guilty-Pleasure Wings: https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/late-night-guilty-pleasure-chicken-wings/

Chicken Wings & The Primal Gnaw: https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/chicken-wings-the-primal-gnaw/

It’s Game Time:     https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/its-game-time/

Tapas Partay!

20130428-114130.jpg

A little blurry, but oh, what a spread!

Last week Regina and I had a couple of great friends over for an early dinner. Well, all dinners are early when you have an infant, but luckily our friends are obliging and understanding. Of course when I put out a spread like this of course they are obliging! Mitch supplied the wine and Stef made a excellent blueberry pie to finish the meal with.

Starting from the bottom left and travelling a meandering path up the table in a vaguely clockwise direction the dishes are as follows: garlic aioli with a touch of saffron, garlicky sautéed mushrooms, paprika-dusted fried chicken wings, roasted purple cauliflower with shallots and a hit of sherry vinegar, marcona almonds, pickled peppadew peppers (say that five times fast!), lightly sweetened olive oil crackers (in the wax paper), assorted olives, patatas bravas (crispy fried potatoes), grilled lamb riblets, grilled ribeye with roasted garlic, lobster with saffron sofrito, grilled bread for pan con tomate, membrillo (Spanish quince paste), assorted cheese platter including cabrales, idiazabal, some kind of hard Basque cheese that I’ve forgotten the name of, and some nice Spanish chorizo (not to be confused with the Mexican stuff), clams with garlic and white wine and diced chorizo, and finally at the bottom right a plate of hand-shaved slices of one of the world’s great cured meats — Jamon Iberico “pata negra” — a dry-cured ham made from these cute little black pigs that feast on acorns.

Eating like this — with a wide assortment of small plates with complementing and contrasting flavors and textures and colors — is so enjoyable and delicious and fun and communal that I wish we could feast like this every night! I’d be 300 pounds, but I’d be happy as a clam cooked with white wine and chorizo.

Crispy Fried Frog Legs!

Krispy Kermit

Krispy Kermit

When I was in the South Carolina Low Country last week I managed to get my hands on some absolutely fresh and delicious frog legs. Most commercial frog legs (at least the ones I’ve managed to get) are sold frozen and are usually imported from China. Once frozen the tasty little legs lose much of the sweet tenderness that makes them such a fine treat; the flesh gets a little rubbery and loses flavor. Now, about that flavor — everyone says they taste like chicken, but I don’t really buy into that description. That’s only an excuse to get the slightly squeamish to try something that superficially seems a bit weird — I mean, you’re eating a slimy, mud-dwelling amphibian, right? To me, frog legs taste like, well, frog. The meat is tender, almost gentle in its yielding texture, and a bit sweet with a faint butteriness that’s reminiscent of fresh scallops or mild fish like dover sole. The meat is nearly white, and the legs do bear a superficial resemblance to a chicken drumstick. If you fry them “chicken-style” like I did you could certainly make a case that they “taste like chicken”.

My friend Martin took half the batch and sautéed them French-style (you’ve heard the French being referred to as Frogs, haven’t you?), which means in a hot pan with garlic and herbs and a splash of white wine. They were incredibly delicious, but I prefer frying them because I find that a crisp breading plays wonderfully against the tender meat inside, making for a fantastic textural contrast. Crispy critters are yummy!

Now, I’m not sure exactly where these froggies were “gigged” although the marshy Low Country could certainly produce a bumper crop of our amphibious friends. I’m pretty sure they were local, although the seafood purveyor was a bit cagey about the actual source. Maybe something not entirely above-board in the supply chain? I don’t know, I don’t care, the frogs were exceptionally good. Heck, it’s not like I was buying whale meat.

I got the legs and separated them from the lower half of the frog torsos with a couple of sharp whacks with my knife. I’d never seen them still attached to the body, and the tiny exposed vertebrae and frog ribs had a Sam Raimi-George Romero-David Cronenberg kind of grotesquerie that gave me a brief pause. But I continued and with the same blade hacked off the feet (flippers?). The resulting “drumsticks” I soaked in whole milk for three hours in the refrigerator.

I whisked together a simple breader from one cup all-purpose flour, one and a half cups yellow corn flour (not to be confused with corn starch or corn meal), a quarter-cup of semolina flour, a generous tablespoon of kosher salt, a teaspoon of celery salt, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of ground white pepper, a teaspoon of onion powder, a half-teaspoon of finely ground black pepper, a half-teaspoon of Old Bay Spice, a half-teaspoon of granulated sugar, and a half-teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder.

I set up a fryer for 375ºF and breaded the frog legs by gently shaking off any excess milk and dredging the legs in the seasoned flours. I placed the legs on a rack over a sheet pan and let them sit for about five minutes. I fried the legs five or six at a time until golden brown, about three minutes per batch. I served them simply with lemon slices although a simple tartar sauce or remoulade wouldn’t have been out of place.

They were spectacular — hot and crisp and juicy and tender. Utterly delicious.

They don't really look like chicken, do they?

They don’t really look like chicken, do they?

Crispy Wok-Fried Chicken Wings

photo-12

Man, I love chicken wings!

I’m a sucker for chicken wings, as you could probably guess if you’ve followed my blog at all. I love the chewy, crispy skin and the inelegant but highly satisfying act of gnawing hot meat off of bones. Yesterday I cranked out this simple Asian-persuasion wing dish for an early dinner for just the wife and me.

As usual I par-cooked the wings prior to frying. I preheated the oven to 300°F and then I tossed the wings with a little vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder. I put the wings on a sheet pan lined with a rack to allow some of the fats to drip off. It took about 35 minutes to cook the wings totally through. I removed the wings and let them cool to room temperature before finishing them.

I heated a wok over high and added about an inch of rice bran oil (the preferred oil for frying tempura) although peanut oil would be an excellent substitute. When the oil was smoking-hot I gently lowered about twelve wings into the wok and fried them until browned and crispy, turning them frequently with a tongs. It took about eight minutes to get the wings totally, evenly browned.

I removed and drained the wings and placed them still piping hot into a large mixing bowl. I scattered over the wings about a half-teaspoon of kosher salt, a generous amount of cracked black pepper (think teaspoon), a pinch of white pepper, a pinch of Chinese five-spice powder, a pinch of garlic powder, about a tablespoon of dark soy sauce, about a teaspoon of light brown sugar, about a teaspoon of togarashi shichimi (a Japanese seasoned chili pepper powder), about a tablespoon of minced fresh cilantro, and a big knob of room-temperature butter, which melted immediately as it hit the hot wings. I tossed it all together to coat the wings and then dumped them unceremoniously on a plate.

Regina and I scarfed the yummy wings in no time. Little baby Vivian had a couple of chicken scraps as well and made little positive murmurs as she chewed (her version of “compliments to the chef”). The wings were delicious!

photo-13

I crisped the wings in about an inch of rice bran oil.

Check out my other wing-related posts!

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/its-game-time/

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/chicken-wings-the-primal-gnaw/

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/late-night-guilty-pleasure-chicken-wings/

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/honey-ginger-chicken-wings-again/

Today’s Lunch: Chicken Piccata

A light, simple lunch.

I cranked out this tasty lunch the other day at work and my peeps loved it! I cooked some chicken breasts and made a simple piccata-style sauce to spoon over the top. I served it with some crispy little yukon gold potatoes and a salad of romaine, arugula, tomato, red cabbage, spinach, cucumber, crumbled egg, and a little manchego cheese.

Typically chicken or veal piccata starts with cutlets that are breaded with a little egg and flour mixture, but in the interest of keeping it lighter I eschewed that step and simply sautéed the chicken breasts. The tart and zesty drizzle is an herbed lemon-caper pan-sauce made in the same skillet the chicken was cooked in, which allows it to pick up some of those flavorings left in the pan from the chicken.

I’m not going to write out the recipe, I’m just gonna throw it at ya! I’m gonna move fast.

I preheated the oven to 350ºF and then I heated a non-stick, oven-ready skillet over high heat. I generously seasoned three chicken breasts with salt and pepper. When the pan was super-hot I swirled in about two tablespoons of vegetable oil. I added the chicken breasts and browned one side (about three minutes) and then flipped them. I cooked the other side another couple of minutes and then threw the pan into the oven. I baked the chicken for another five minutes and then pulled out the pan from the oven.

I took the chicken out of the pan and put the breasts on a plate and covered them with foil. I poured off most of the oil (leaving maybe a teaspoon in the pan) and then put the skillet back on the stove over medium-high heat. Into the pan I threw one minced garlic clove and about a tablespoon of minced shallot. I stirred that around for thirty seconds to soften the garlic and shallot and then I added two tablespoons of white wine. I scraped the bottom of the pan and boiled off the wine. I added a tablespoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons of capers.

I made a slurry of a half-cup of chicken broth with a tablespoon of corn starch whisked into it. I poured the slurry into the pan and combined everything with a whisk. I seasoned the sauce with more salt and pepper and added about a tablespoon of minced parsley and a teaspoon of minced chives. I brought the sauce up to boil to thicken it and reduce it and then I whisked in a tablespoon of room temperature.

I killed the heat and put the chicken breasts (and any collected juices) back into the pan, turning them to coat them with the piccata–style sauce. I put the chicken on a plate with the potatoes and the salad and then drizzled a bit of sauce over the top of the chicken.

Viola! Lunch is served!

 

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes & Crispy Chard

Doesn’t that look yummy?

I made this lovely chicken main course last night. It was full of robust flavors and was damn satisfying. The sweet potatoes and corn were steamed. The chard chips were a nice addition. I also added a pureed cauliflower sauce and an emerald basil oil for flavor, color, and contrast.

The chicken was an organic, skin-on, boneless chicken breast that I sprinkled with a mixture of sea salt, cracked black pepper, minced rosemary, a little thyme, garlic, some dried lemon zest, and a bit of paprika. I seasoned it generously and rubbed it all over with olive oil. I put it skin-side down into a very hot grill-pan over high heat. When the skin was nicely browned and a bit crispy on the edges I flipped the chicken breast and popped the whole pan into a preheated 350ºF oven for about six minutes. I removed the pan and took the chicken out, letting it rest on my cutting board for a few minutes prior to service.

The sweet potatoes I peeled and cut into large cubes. I steamed these with a handful of fresh corn niblets, maybe 20 minutes. I seasoned the sweet potatoes and corn with some salt and pepper and a little chiffonade of basil. I tossed it with a little olive oil and squeezed a tiny bit of orange juice over it.

The swiss chard chips were pretty easy. I tore the leaves off of the main ribs and rubbed the leaves well with some olive oil. I seasoned the chard with a little salt and roasted it in the oven set to convection for about 20 minutes on a sheet-pan lined with a rack at 275 degrees F. When they were nice and crisp I took them out of the oven and left them at room temp.

I simmered a half-head of cauliflower with about a cup of chicken stock, one large garlic clove, a splash of white wine, a little bit of chopped onion, some salt, and a pinch of ground white pepper. I cooked the cauliflower until soft (about 20 minutes) and then pureed it until very smooth in a blender. Note: take care when blending hot liquids. Remove the top portion of the lid, put the lid back on, and cover the lid loosely with a kitchen towel as you blend. This creates a vent so that the hot steam can escape and not cause a pressure explosion of scalding hot cauliflower puree. That’s bad. Also, start at a low speed and increase to fully puree, just to be extra cautious.

Finally I made the basil oil by blanching in boiling salted water a whole bunch of basil. I blanched it for about one minute, drained the basil, and patted it very dry with paper towels. In the blender I pureed the cooked basil with about a half cup of very good olive oil. I poured that into a dish and let it sit on the counter for two hours. I strained the oil of all the solids through a sieve lined with cheesecloth, which took about 20 minutes. What was left was a beautiful, emerald-green garnishing oil redolent of fresh basil.

So, to complete the dish I put a little pile of sweet potatoes and corn in the center of the plate and surrounded it with a moat of hot cauliflower puree. I put the cooked chicken on top, drizzled a little basil oil around the moat, and topped the whole thing off with a few crispy chard chips. It was dynamite! And beautiful.

Keep in mind that these instructions are out of order; so if you intend on trying the dish, read well and plan accordingly. Make the cauliflower sauce in advance, make the basil oil a couple days in advance if you want. Make the chard chips early in the day and set up your steamer an hour before dinner.