Category Archives: Chicken Dishes

General Tso’s Chicken by Appetite for China

Cooking via computer

A couple of weeks ago, at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting lots of writers, editors, and authors.  One person I had the chance to talk to was Diana Kuan from the site Appetite for China and the recently published The Chinese Takeout Cookbook.  During the season for Chinese New Year, she’s put together a virtual potluck of seven of the recipes from the book.  Each of the bloggers who make one of the dishes before the end of the festivities is entered into a drawing for some really great prizes.  I haven’t had much chance to participate in blogger events recently with culinary school studies, so I decided to take some time over the holiday weekend to throw together one of the dishes from the book.

Plated dishGeneral Tso’s Chicken

General Tso’s Chicken is one of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes, and it was great to find an easy recipe to make this at home.  The crispy chicken had the perfect balance of sweet-tart-spicy when dressed in the sauce.    It was difficult for me not to munch on the searing hot chicken pieces the moment they came out of the fragrant sauce, leaving nothing to plate for the photo.  I used chicken thighs, as the recipe called for, but I also wonder about using chicken breasts or both the next time.  This dish would be a great addition to the Chinese New Year’s celebration table.

Ingredients

Chicken marinating

Chicken in cornstarch

Frying the chicken

Scooping chicken out of the fryer

Pile of crispy fried chicken

Sauce ingredients mixed together

Sauce reducing

Chicken dressed with sauce

General Tso’s Chicken

Buon appetito!

Basic Chicken Stock

Stock ingredientsStock Ingredients

I’ve spent a few Thanksgiving holiday weekends over the years nursing a cold, so I wasn’t too surprised to wake up this morning feeling a little bit run down.  Between school and volunteering in order to get some more kitchen assisting experience, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately.  This weekend is the first one I’ve had in a while to catch my breath.  I’ve been tackling those little projects around the apartment, like cleaning out the freezer.

Chicken parts

For the practical exam that we had to take at the end of the second level of our culinary program, I had bought a few chickens to practice butchering skills.  I’d packed up the parts and had put them in the freezer thinking that, at some point, I’d make stock with them.  Today seemed like as good a day as any to tackle this culinary project.

Mirepoix – the aromatic element for the stock

Making stocks was one of the lessons we learned early in the Culinary Techniques course.  Now that our group has moved into the level where we cook the family meal each lesson for students and staff, we make stocks every night in large volume so that others in the school can use it as needed for their recipes.  It’s kind of made me fall in love with the process of creating these richly fragrant bases for adding to sauces, cooking risottos or turning into soups.  So, I gathered up the ingredients and set aside a couple of hours to let the stock simmer away, giving me the perfect opportunity to figure out my Christmas card/gift list.

Chicken stock all packed up

Basic Chicken Stock

Prep Time: about 2 1/2 hours

Yield: about 2 1/2 quarts or 2.36 litres of stock

Ingredients:

2 1/2 lbs. or 1.15 kilos Chicken parts (body, wings)

5 pints or 2.5 litres Water

12 oz. or 340 grams Onion, cut into large chunks (approximate)

7 oz. or 200 grams Carrots, cut into large chunks (approximate)

5 oz. or 140 grams Celery, cut into large chunks (approximate)

1 Bay Leaf

6-7 Parsley stems

10 Black Peppercorns

Assembly:

Place chicken parts and water into a deep pan.  Make sure that the water covers the chicken completely.  Bring the mixture up to a simmer over low heat.  Skim off the impurities that rise to the top of the liquid and discard them.

Water and chicken pieces in the pot

Impurities rising to the top of the stock

Scum from the stock

Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, parsley stems, and peppercorns to the pan.  Keep the liquid on a low simmer and let it cook away for about two hours, until the chicken has released its flavor into the water.

Herbs for the stock

Adding vegetables and herbs to the stock

Once the stock has simmered a couple of hours and has taken on a light chicken-y taste, ladle it into a bowl and place the bowl in a water bath to cool it down.  Then, if not using it right away, pour the stock into containers to store and to freeze it.  The stock will keep for several months in the freezer.

Straining the chicken stock

Cooling down the chicken stock

Chicken stock ready to use

Note that I did not add garlic, thyme or salt to this recipe, as some recipes call for.  This is because I wanted the stock to have as neutral a flavor as possible so that I could have the flexibility of using it in many different kinds of dishes, including just to make soup to fight off the winter sniffles.

Buon appetito!

Spicy Chicken Salad Banh Mi Sandwich

Chicken Salad Banh MiSpicy Chicken Salad Banh Mi Sandwich

A couple of weeks ago when I was at the lunch with Kitchensurfing, I had an open-faced, spicy chicken salad sandwich as the main part of the meal.  I was so inspired by this dish that I decided to try to re-create it at home, adding a few extra things that bring it closer to what I really like in a classic Banh Mi.  This combination really grabbed my tastebuds for a few reasons.  One of them, I think, is I’ve been increasingly drawn to more Asian-influenced tangy-spicy-fresh flavors lately, especially with this summer’s lingering hot spells.  Another might have been that this was just a great way to bring together a bunch of different textures, ones that vary from what I usually fix for myself.

Ingredients for Sandwiches

Spicy Chicken Salad Banh Mi Sandwich

Prep Time: under 30 minutes if you use already-cooked chicken

Serving Size: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

1/3 c. Mayonnaise

1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. Sriracha

2 c. shredded Chicken (if you poach it yourself, add 30 minutes to the prep time for this recipe)

1/2 Lime, juiced

1/4 tsp. Salt

1 Tbsp. Cilantro, finely chopped

4 Mini-Baguettes (I used the Pan Bagnat from Hot Bread Kitchen) or other Vietnamese bread

1/4 oz. Country Pâté cut into strips or slices (I used the one from Brooklyn Cured)

1/4 c. Pickled Carrots and Radishes (see below*)

1 Cucumber, peeled in long strips with no seeds

20-30 Cilantro leaves

Assembly:
If you decide to poach the chicken, rather than using leftovers or buying it ready made, you can follow the directions here, and start off by preparing the chicken, as it will need to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.  You’ll use 1/2 of the chicken for this recipe.  If you already have cooked, shredded chicken on hand, start off by making the spicy mayonnaise.

Sriracha Mayonnaise

Add 1 tsp. of the Sriracha to the mayonnaise and then mix them together.  Taste to see if it is your desired spiciness level, remembering that some of the heat will be diminished when it the mayonnaise is combined with the chicken.  Add each additional tsp. until the mayonnaise is as spicy as you’d like it to be.  Mine reached a sort of light pumpkin color, which was at about the 4 tsp. point.

Spicy Chicken Salad

For the Spicy Chicken Salad, place the chicken in a bowl.  Pour over the lime juice and add the salt and cilantro to the chicken.  Toss gently to combine the ingredients.  Then, add about 1/3 c. of the spicy mayonnaise, leaving some to spread on the sandwiches.  Fold the mayonnaise into the seasoned chicken.  Taste.  Add more salt and a touch more lime juice, if desired.  The flavors should be creamy, with a hint of heat, and a lift of freshness from the citrus and the cilantro.

Spicy mayonnaise and pâté on sandwich

Cut the bread in half and toast each side.  Spread some of the spicy mayonnaise on each half of the toasted bread, and place the strips of pâté on the bottom half of the bread.  Pile 1/4 of the spicy chicken salad on top of the pâté.

Building the sandwich

Place a nice-sized pile of the pickled carrots and radishes on top of the chicken.  Put the sliced cucumber on top half of the bread and sprinkle several whole cilantro leaves on top that.  Put both halves together for the complete sandwich.  This bread also holds up well when the sandwich is prepared a bit in advance and kept wrapped in the refrigerator, which makes it ideal for packed lunches or picnics.

Spicy Chicken Salad Banh Mi Sandwich

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip:

Carrots and Radishes

I took the long way with this recipe, poaching the chicken myself and making the mayonnaise from scratch.  I also pickled the carrots and radishes about 24 hours in advance of making this dish.

Pickling Spices

After looking around on line, I just whipped up a quick pickling solution, put it in a jar, added the vegetables, and let it sit in the fridge.

Pickled Carrots and Radishes

I’m sure that it isn’t entirely the exact right way to make this, but the finished results were a slightly crunchy, tangy product that added some other spice notes and texture to the final sandwich.

Pickled Carrots and Radishes

Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus overnight to sit in refrigerator

Ingredients:

3 Radishes (preferably Daikon, but here I used what I had, which were the red ones)

2 Carrots

4-5 Allspice Berries

10 Black Peppercorns

10-12 Coriander Seeds

1 Star Anise

1 Tbsp. Sugar

1 Tbsp. Salt

1/4 c. Rice Wine Vinegar

1/2-3/4 c. boiling Water

Assembly:

Slice radishes into long, thin strips about 1/4 cm wide.  Peel the carrots and cut them in the same size.  In a glass jar with a tight lid, combine the spices with the sugar and salt.  Pour over the boiling water and then add the vinegar.  Stir to mix together and to make sure that the sugar and salt have dissolved completely.  Put the carrots and the radishes into the liquid and seal the jar tightly.  Let the jar cool for 10-15 minutes before placing it in the refrigerator to sit at least overnight.  This mixture should be consumed within a week, as it is not meant to be kept for long-term preservation.

Cinco de Mayo Entertaining & Menu Ideas

Chilaquiles for Brunch

I’m still in a bit of denial that May is really here already, so wrapping my head around what to pull together to acknowledge Cinco de Mayo has been daunting.  This year, I’ll actually be in Washington, DC at Eat, Write, Retreat with several dozen other food bloggers and writers.  With the day itself falling on a Saturday, this is a perfect opportunity to gather your friends around to eat and drink and to celebrate being together.  Maybe a few of these American-Mexican hybrid dishes could be on the menu to get things rolling.

Tomatillo Salsa

This Tomatillo Salsa is a good base for any one of a number of dishes, the Chilaquiles, enchiladas, nachos.  My favorite way to eat it is just drizzled over eggs folded over gooey melted cheddar cheese.  It really perks up the morning, and gets the day started on just the right note.

Fork Tacos for DIY entertaining

My sister-in-law will groan at seeing this dish, but it’s not a bad option for a Weeknight Dinner for the gang.  I’m speaking from first-hand experience on this one, as growing up we had Fork Tacos at least a few times a month, and I was the person who was usually tasked with putting it together.

7-Layer Dip

Or maybe you’d like to start with the leftovers first?  When I originally posted this recipe for 7-Layer Dip, I was using up those Fork Taco dinner extras.  You could even start off by making this dish instead of the tacos.  I might even add a layer of the Tomatillo Salsa to the beans, making it an 8-Layer Dip.

Family-flexibile Fajitas

I wish I had a better photo from this post for Family-flexible Fajitas, but the truth is that my siblings and their kids and spouses descended upon all the dishes before I even had a chance to make my first fajita.  That’s the reality of living in a large family.  Seriously, they were all eating the Guacamole as fast as I could mash up the avocados, even using the little ones to sneak chips in underneath my arms to grab a bite.  That should be recommendation enough that this dish is a real crowd-pleaser and would be a great way to entertain your friends for Cinco de Mayo.

Buon appetito!

Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

This dish brings back memories of my folks coming to visit me when I lived in Bologna, Italy.  Far away from home, it was a real treat to be able to show off my language skills and the city to them.  Of course, the other benefit was that we got to eat out at places that were normally beyond my grad school student budget.  One of those was the venerable Ristorante Diana, which has been around since the 1920s and has served just about everyone.  Yes, at this point it is quite touristy, and although it does a good job with la cucina bolognese, it isn’t really the first place I’d send people looking for the classic cuisine of the city.

Go down Via Independenza to get there

At the same time, however, I did have a dish there that night that I immediately tried to re-create in my own kitchen a few weeks later: Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes.  It would have been useful if I had written down exactly what I had done more than ten years ago when I first cracked it, but, of course, I didn’t.  Two countries, four cities, and I’m not sure how many moves later, and I decided that I needed to try this one again.  I’m not sure if I got it quite the way that I had had it in Italy, but I think this is a close approximation.  It is a meat and potatoes dish with an Italian flare, and it came together quickly on a week night.  During these dreary winter days, it also had me dreaming of the inviting tangerine and papaya hues of Bologna, which is never a bad thing.

Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

This is one of those dishes where several pots and pans are going on all at the same time.  That is one of the reasons it works well as a week night supper, as it comes together very quickly.  Read the recipe through all the way to get the hang of the sequence of these steps and to see how several things are timed to cook together.

Serving Size: 2 portions

Prep Time: 30-ish minutes

Ingredients:

1 medium Potato per person, peeled and cut into chunks (I used a variety called Nicola that was nice and buttery.)

1/2 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Butter

Salt

Pepper

2 Chicken breast halves

4 slices Pancetta, cut into medium-sized pieces

1/4 tsp. Olive Oil

1/2 c. Tomato Purée (I used Pomi strained tomatoes.)

2 tsp. Tomato Paste

Pepper

1/4 c. Green Peas

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 c. Whole Milk

1 pinch Nutmeg

More Salt

More Pepper

Assembly:

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put potatoes into pot.  Fill with water until it just covers the potatoes and stick it on a back burner to cook away over medium heat.

In shallow oven-proof pan, melt butter and olive oil together.  You can pick one or the other of these if you like, but this is really one of my favorite combinations of fat in which to cook chicken.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of the chicken breast halves and place them in the pan when the butter has melted into the olive oil.  Cook on each side until lightly brown and then place the pan into the oven to continue cooking thoroughly.

Chicken cooking away on the stove

While the chicken is browning in the pan on top of the stove, put the pancetta into a saucepan with about 1/4 tsp. of olive oil and cook over medium to low heat until it is brown and crisp.  Set aside on a paper towel to drain.  Pour the tomato purée and tomato sauce in the saucepan and stir it to combine the leftover fat and bits from the pancetta.  Season with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  Add the peas and stir to mix everything together.  Stir in the pancetta.  Let this simmer over low heat while the rest of the dish comes together.

Tomato sauce with the peas, pancetta to be added

Test the potatoes.  By this point, if you insert a knife or fork into the potato chunks, they will break apart.  At that stage, turn of the stove, drain the potatoes in the pot, and toss in the butter, milk, some salt (1/4 tsp. or so), and some pepper (1/8 tsp. or so).  Mash up the potatoes with a fork or potato masher and mix everything together.  Taste.  Add nutmeg and potentially some more salt and more pepper.

Mashed potatoes

Put the potatoes on each of two plates.  Remove the pan with the chicken from the oven and test the chicken to make sure that it is cooked all the way through.  Place the chicken on eat of the two plates.  Pour some of the tomato-pancetta sauce over the chicken.  Serve.

O.K., so this time I might have gotten a little carried away with the sauce

Buon appetito!

Curling up with Chicken Soup and Kathleen Flinn’s Book “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry”

The least-well-received “present” that I got during the holidays was a cold bug from one of my nephews.  As much as I loved playing with the active little guy and holding his newborn brother, I really didn’t need an extra special gift from them to take home with me to New York.  Fortunately, I could sit on the couch for a few days and wrap myself up in Kathleen Flinn’s book about her adventures in culinary school, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry,* as I nursed my way through stuffed-up sinuses and a hacking cough.

This story about surviving job loss, pursuing long-held dreams, living in Paris, and finding love, was the perfect antidote for my illness.  Each chapter tells a piece of the tale of Flinn’s trip from mid-level corporate worker to graduate of the Cordon Bleu cooking school, the same one that Julia Child attended.  She ends every installment of her journey with a recipe based upon some of what she learned in the program or in life.  I have to say that these dishes sounded delicious and were tempting me, even in my cold-medicine-induced haze to try to reproduce them.

Flinn also talks about the time she had la grippe or the flu when she was in Paris.  Having been sick far away from home, in another country, with a language barrier to boot, I can imagine just how miserable she felt.  I’ve been there.  There’s the challenge of trying to figure out how to explain what ails you, sorting out what you can get over the counter to cure the aches and pains, and conjuring up how to comfort yourself in an unfamiliar place.  For some relief, Flinn whips up a batch of Potage de Poulet aux Nouille, avec de l’Ail et des Herbes, or that childhood sickday staple more commonly known as Chicken Noodle Soup.  Looking for something to chase away my own symptoms, I decided this might just be the trick.  The rich, steaming broth studded with meat and sprinkled with vegetables and herbs opened up my nasal passages and soothed my sore throat.  In any language, the remedy for a cold remains the same.

Browning chicken for soup

Cooking the carrots, celery, onions, garlic

Adding stock and herbs to the pot – I didn’t make a bouquet garni, and I omitted the Herbes de Provence

Broth simmering away

Which gives me time to shred the chicken – I also took out the herbs at this point

Putting chicken and broth together – I opted not to add noodles

A bowl of warm, comforting chicken soup

Buon appetito!