Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Braised Thai Drumsticks

Chicken Drumsticks: A Haiku

Tender and juicy
So very affordable
Always overlooked

People turn up their noses at dark meat - especially when it's still on the bone. But most of what you're paying for when you shell out $9 for three boneless, skinless, chicken breasts is the labor of the bone and skin removal. And I think dark meat is just so much more flavorful! To be sure, not everyone agrees, but for those of you who appreciate dark meat in all its succulent glory, cooking with chicken drumsticks is a great way to stretch your dinner dollar at the, ahem, end of the month.

I got 6 organic, free range chicken drumsticks for about $2.75 at Trader Joe's, and this meal all in all (counting the meatless leftovers I packed for my lunch tomorrow) made about 4 servings. Drumsticks, besides being an economical choice, are also perfect for a quick braise. When you braise them (as opposed to, say, frying them), you can always be sure they'll be fully cooked - if you've ever bitten into a drumstick that's been fried golden brown on the outside but is raw on the inside, you can understand my paranoia.

The easy, yet exotic, flavors of this easy intro-to-Thai braise might just make you white-meat-only people out there reconsider your poultry preferences. And if you just can't walk away from your precious breast meat, be my guest - chicken breasts would work great in this dish too. So screw takeout! Make a fantastic Thai-inspired dish at home. You can do it :-)


6 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
2-3 T. grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, in chunks
1/2 large white onion, in chunks
2 large Roma tomatoes, in chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 serrano pepper with all seeds (optional)
1/2 c. chicken broth
pinch of salt
1 head broccoli, in florets
2 T. Sriracha hot sauce (or less, to taste)
2 heaping T. natural (unsweetened) peanut butter
1 T. honey
2 heaping T. brown sugar
juice of one lime
big pinch of salt
1 can light coconut milk
brown rice for serving
fresh chopped cilantro for serving


In a large pot with tight-fitting lid or a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides. Remove from pan and reduce heat to medium. Set chicken aside. Preheat oven to 375.


In a large bowl, whisk together the Sriracha, peanut butter, lime juice, salt, honey, and brown sugar. Whisk in the coconut milk.


Add the bell peppers, onions, serrano pepper and tomatoes to the oil still in the pan from the chicken - be careful, it will splatter something fierce. Throw in a little salt and stir around, scraping any chicken bits from the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes, add the chicken broth and garlic. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple minutes.


Stir the peanut butter-coconut milk mixture into the veggies in the pan. Add the broccoli. Bring to a simmer, then nestle the chicken down into the sauce and veggie mixture. Cover the pot, turn off the heat, and transfer the whole thing to the oven. Meanwhile, cook the rice in a rice cooker or on the stove.


Remove the chicken from the oven and serve with the sauce and veggies over rice. Top with cilantro and a few lime wedges, if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

J'taime Tartines!

Here, friends, is another lesson in working with what you've got. In this case, what I had was bread. A LOT of bread. And what I didn't have was patience.

Ross had picked up a gigantic loaf of Italian bread at the store one day (I love when he goes grocery shopping - the only thing he's guaranteed to come back with is beer, and the rest is inevitably a grab-bag of delicious surprises). The past, oh, month for me can basically be summed up in one appropriately four-letter word: WORK. I've been pulling long hours at the office and had no time to buy food, let alone cook it. These gorgeous little open-faced sandwiches mark my (perhaps temporary) return to the world of the living.

At any rate, a mountain of Italian bread and a whole evening of free time on my hands, I decided to make tartines. Tartines are, as I mentioned, simply open-faced sandwiches. They're (according to Ina Garten) a Parisian cafe staple, and I love them because they seem less lunch-y than a full-on sandwich, yet lighter than a typical dinnertime meal. The beauty of them is that you can top them with literally anything you want. I've made peanut butter-pear-cheddar versions, topped them with prosciutto and piled lemony arugula on name it. The bread is your canvas, limited only by your cravings.

Of the three I made, my personal favorite was the ham and Gouda - but then again I'm a sucker for anything smoky. Ross liked the Reuben-style tartines. These would be fantastic for a party, or anytime, really. The best part is that they're no-fuss, super fast, and really economical. I hope you experiment with some fabulous toppings of your own!


3 very large slices good quality Italian bread
corned beef, sliced thinly
salami, sliced thinly
maple-glazed ham, sliced thinly
Swiss cheese, sliced thinly
smoked Gouda, sliced thinly
Red cabbage kraut

[Thousand Island:]
sweet pickle relish

Grapes and Salad for serving (optional)


Heat oven to 375 with a baking stone or baking sheet inside it. When hot, place the bread slices on the baking sheet and allow to crisp a bit (for about 5-10 minutes).


Remove bread from oven and top with meats and cheeses. My combos were:

- [Reuben:] Thousand Island, corned beef, red cabbage kraut, and Swiss
- Mayo, ham, and Gouda
- Salami and Swiss


Place back in the oven and cook until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven, slice into smaller pieces, and serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

OMG Lamb (and Cumin-Roasted Carrots & Potatoes)

Since Sunday, I've been repeating a particular mantra: "All I want to do is go home and cook that f***ing lamb!"

Why the foul-mouthed theatrics? Well, first there was The Epic Oven Fail of 2010 (Adam, remember how much I adore you). I bought a 6 lb. ($40) leg (LEG!) of lamb from Whole Foods on Sunday morning, psyched to (as I had promised) roast it in Adam's oven and serve it for the Superbowl festivities he was hosting. At 2 PM the day of the big game, Adam texted me saying his oven was suffering from an electrical failure, rendering it locked (LOCKED!), and thus unable to roast said lamb (or to cook his delicious stuffed pizza, trucked in from Indiana).

Needless to say, we all survived. The Saints were victorious, and the patron saint of snack foods, St. Guacamole, saved the day.

Then came Monday. I rarely curse (on this blog, I mean), but Monday was an undeniable shitshow from the very beginning. Said shitshow continued well into the evening (until midnight, to be precise), as my Digitas team toiled into the night creating brilliant online advertising that will one day be avoided by all of you in a fit of irritation.

I digress.

Back to the lamb. As you can see, for the past 48 hours, my lonely leg of lamb, having made the arduous trek from New Zealand to the Whole Foods in Boystown, was left to marinate in the fridge for a full 48 hours in a blanket of the delectable Tunisian chile paste, harissa. It had been sitting in salt and harissa for two days. And that, my friends, is not a curse - it is a blessing of the most savory, meaty variety.

Because that lamb, I swear to God, was the most delicious meat I have ever put into my mouth. Most. Delicious. Meat. Ever.
You all KNOW how I feel about meat: lukewarm, at best! But this was no ordinary meat. It was the best. Ever.

So, in conclusion, I advise all of you to buy an absurdly large and expensive leg of lamb, rub something all over it, and then become too busy to cook it for two days. In the end, you will thank me. Seriously.


6-lb. leg of lamb, bone-in (fresh)
lots of harissa paste (I used about a half a jar)
lots of kosher salt (don't be shy, salt it up, it's a whole damn lamb's leg for god's sake)
1/3 c. olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
lots of freshly chopped cilantro
lots of freshly chopped parsley
3 medium carrots, in large chunks
7-8 baby yukon gold potatoes, halved
1 red onion, in large dice
drizzle olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste


Place the raw lamb leg in a large baking dish (I used a 9 X 12 casserole dish, and the lamb bone hung out the side - I also had to turn the dish sideways when I put it in the oven - the hilarity of living in a shoebox), fat-side up. Make shallow slices in the top of it, diagonally going both ways (making an allover X pattern). Rub with salt, then harissa. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate for 1-2 days. In an airtight container, combine olive oil, garlic, cilantro, and parsley. Shake. Refrigerate that also.


Preheat the oven to 450. Toss the carrots, onion, and potatoes in the olive oil with salt, pepper, and cumin in a baking dish. Set aside.


Take lamb out of fridge. Remove plastic or foil. Rub the harissa into the lamb again (not new harissa, just the same harissa - jsut give it a rub). Pour the oil-garlic-herb mixture over the top. Place the lamb in oven and roast at 450 for about 30 minutes.


Turn the heat down to 350 and place the potato/onion/carrots into the oven with the lamb. Roast the veggies and lamb for another hour. After an hour, take the meat's temperature. The lamb needs to reach an internal temp of 145 (make sure the meat thermometer does not touch the bone). If the lamb is up to temp, remove it from the oven and cover it with aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Let the veggies keep roasting till the lamb is done resting.


Slice the lamb. Serve it with the vegetables. Enjoy!
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