Category Archives: fix it and forget it

Sticky Chicky Wings


Shopping at the grocery store this past weekend for a Super Bowl party inspired me to make some wings for dinner one night this week. Now you’re probably thinking, but aren’t wings really unhealthy? Not if you marinate them overnight in a yummy sauce and then bake them. I realize that the wing is a decently fatty part of the chicken, but it has a lot of flavor. At least the baked type are more healthy than their fried counterparts!

Craving wings? Craving Asian flavors? Make these!

I had some sake and mirin sitting around that I’d bought a while back in a lame attempt to recreate these wings served at David Chang’s Momufuku restaurant in New York City. Last spring, I’d taken a cooking class called “Great Restaurants of New York” and that particular recipe was one that our chefs had us prepare, with a few modifications–for example, we used a sous vide cooker to cook them rather than cook them in the 5 cups of duck fat the original recipe calls for. The flavor of the finished wings was indescribable, but one I knew I’d want to eat over and over again.

So this week, I decided to make sticky chicken wings with a marinade that I’d cobbled together and that turned out to have a similar flavor to the wings we’d made in class minus the smokiness that David Chang’s recipe has. I served ours alongside a quickie fried rice I threw together with frozen veggies and steamed rice. No eggs or scallions, of course. 🙂

Here’s how I did it. You will need:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder (if you don’t have this, you can use a blend of ground anise, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground fennel and black pepper. A good guideline for how to mix this is here.)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin**
  • 1 tablespoon dry sake**
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 12 chicken wings, tips removed and reserved for another use (make a stock! don’t let these guys go to waste!)

*Mirin is sweet rice wine. You can substitute sake plus a bit of sugar for it. You can also substitute sweet sherry for the mirin and sake if you don’t have either in your pantry. White wine would also work here.

In a small bowl, add the first 6 ingredients and whisk together until they are thoroughly mixed. In a gallon-sized ziplock bag, add the chicken wings and pour the marinade over the wings. Zip the bag closed, and lay it in a baking dish in your refrigerator so that it sits overnight.

The next day, when you’re ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and remove the wings from the bag, laying them on the paper. Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how meaty your wings are (ours were quite meaty, so they required more time), and then turn the wings over, cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes. They will develop a gorgeous smell as they cook, and their color is as rich as the flavor.

This recipe made 2 servings of 6 drummettes each. I think I’ll use this marinade for larger cuts of chicken as well in the future. It really had a great flavor, and SB inhaled his plate. I deem dinner a success based on that alone.

Brisket Tacos and Borracho Beans


I hope everyone had a fantastic 4th of July.  Ours was really low-key:  we got up super early, went for a walk at a local park, came home and were like slugs all day.  I napped, but before I napped, I put a brisket in the oven for us to have for dinner last night.  After all, it was the 4th of July, and well, brisket is holiday food.  At least it is to me.

Anyway…we had a substantial bit of brisket left over, because well, you can’t buy a brisket for 2.  You can get pretty close, but it’s tough.  Thankfully, the butcher I shop at had smaller cuts of brisket and I was able to get a brisket that was a bit under 6 pounds.  I didn’t really do anything special to it:  just poured a couple of Mexican Cokes (no corn syrup) into a 9-quart Dutch oven, rubbed the brisket down with some rub I have, and placed the meat in, fat side up.  I put the lid on it, put it into a 250F oven and let it cook from 9 until 5 that evening.

The result was a super moist, fork-tender brisket.  In lieu of a smoker, this is how I’m going to cook brisket from now on.

Anyway…since we had so much leftover brisket, I decided that we’d have brisket tacos for dinner tonight, which turned out to be a brilliant idea:

Got leftover 4th of July brisket? We did. Here's what we did with it...mmm, brisket tacos! Almost like barbacoa, but a bit less fatty and just as tasty!

I served them on whole wheat tortillas, along with a bit of shredded Chihuahua cheese and lime wedges.  The avocados we had were not quite ripe enough, or I’d have sliced them up and stuffed the tacos with them.

But man cannot live by tacos alone (or can he?  That’s debatable).  To round out our dinner, I fixed a pot of borracho beans, in the style of a local joint we frequent whose beans are off the chain.  Borracho is the Spanish word for “drunk,” and these beans are so named because you add a bottle of beer to them as they cook.  Of course the alcohol cooks out during the cooking process, so no drunkenness ensues.  Be sure you choose a good quality beer for this, as you really don’t want skunky beer flavoring your pot of beans!

Borracho beans: easy to make, filling to eat, full of veggies and...bacon. Which you can leave out if you like, but which does add flavor.

So I’ll cut to the chase and tell you how I made this evening’s dinner.  You will need:

For the tacos:

  • about 1 1/2 cups chopped brisket
  • 4 tortillas
  • Garnishes:  lime wedges, shredded cheese of your choice, salsa, avocado slices, cilantro, chopped onion…you get the idea

Warm the brisket in the microwave.  While the brisket is warming, heat your tortillas either in a skillet on the stove, or you can go all Mexicano and do it on the stove eye, like I do.  Just don’t burn yourself.  Once your tortillas are warm, stuff each taco with about a half cup or so of brisket and garnish as desired.

For the beans:

  • 1 pound dry pinto beans, rinsed and sorted (basically, make sure there are no rocks)
  • 3 tablespoons ham base*
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cans diced stewed tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, sliced (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 12-ounce bottle lager style Mexican beer, like Corona
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano (it has a more intense flavor than Mediterranean oregano, found in Greek cuisine)
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • hot water

*If you do not have ham base available to you or cannot consume pork products, you may substitute chicken stock and leave out the bacon.  To make this completely vegetarian, use vegetable stock.

Once you have rinsed and sorted your beans, place them into a large pot (like a 5 or 6 quart Dutch oven) and cover them with hot water so that the water is 2″ above the beans.  Cover the beans and put them on a stove set to medium-high heat.  Bring the beans to a boil, and then add the ham base.  Stir thoroughly so that the ham base dissolves in the liquid, then reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the beans to cook for 90 minutes, stirring periodically so that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.  Once the 90 minutes has passed, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Allow the soup to cook for an additional 60-90 minutes.  At the end of the cooking time, use a potato masher to mash the beans up slightly so that your soup is thickened a bit.  Serve while piping hot.

To reduce the heat, you may omit the jalapeno.  Our beans turned out to be quite spicy, but really good!  The pot makes about 10 1 1/2 cup servings.

Lemon Chicken Potato Salad


It’s been a while since I posted a new recipe.  That can be attributed to the fact that the month of May in my house is typically the craziest time of year for me–I’m getting students ready for AP and IB exams, trying to make sure each of my seniors graduates, and trying to wrap up the school year.  Couple that with preparing to head out of town for 2 weeks 3 days after school ends, and things get a little hectic.

I have decided though, that since school is out for the summer and I have a *wee* bit more free time that I will cook much more and post many more new and tasty recipes, and this one’s no exception.

Since summer came early to Texas, the heat came early too.  The last thing you really want to spend your time doing inside when it is 100 degrees outside is spend your evenings cooking over a hot stove/oven.  One day last week, I’d wanted to make a savory salad that could be eaten cold that didn’t require a heck of a lot of prep time.  Enter this:

This turned out to be better than I expected, and was easy to make.  It is best to let this dish sit overnight in the dressing so that everything soaks up the bright lemony flavor.  Here’s how I did it:

You need:

  • 1 full boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 cups new potatoes, skin on, cut in half
  • 3 cups fresh green beans
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • salt, to taste

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.  Spread 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet.  Place the potato halves on the oil, and roast them for 30 minutes in the hot oven.  Once they are done, remove them and allow them to cool.  While the potatoes are cooking, you can prepare the chicken and green beans.  To prepare the green beans, you are going to blanch them for a couple of minutes in salted boiling water, and then immediately remove them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  You want the beans to be crispy.  Once they have cooled, drain them and set them aside.

Sprinkle the chicken breast with lemon pepper and cook in a skillet with a bit of olive oil until cooked through.  Allow the meat to cool, then dice into bite-sized chunks.

In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, minced garlic and salt to taste, remembering that potatoes need salt to bring out their flavor.  Whisk these ingredients together so that they are well-combined.  In a large bowl, place the cooked beans, chicken chunks and potato halves and then pour the dressing over all.  Use a set of tongs to toss the veggies and meat in the dressing.  This salad is best if it is allowed to sit overnight so that the dressing has a chance to permeate everything in the bowl.  My advice would be to cover the salad with a tight-sealing plastic wrap and let the salad sit for 24 hours before serving.

SB ate his hot, but I ate mine cold and both were equally tasty.  This recipe made 4 generous servings.

Feijoada


Feij-what? you’re probably wondering.

I got the latest issue of Cooking Light in my mailbox this week and Friday night finally had a chance to read it.  In this issue, there was a collection of recipes for the slow cooker and among them was one that stuck out at me:  Brazilian Feijoada.

Traditional Brazilian feijoada (pronounced fay-ZWAH-dah) is a meaty stew cooked with a variety of pork and beef products and is usually served over rice with orange wedges.  It is a dish that usually cooks all day long and is usually cooked in stages with varying techniques:  stewing, braising, roasting.  Because the cooking process for this dish is so involved, it is usually not something the average home cook makes often and is usually reserved for special occasions.   The Cooking Light version of this recipe made it seem like making it was no big feat, so I decided to give it a try, with a few modifications.  The original recipe called for both pork shoulder (a bit fatty, I thought) and onion, both of which I left out.  In place of the shoulder, I used a pork tenderloin that cut down the fat content but did not change the flavor.  Leaving out the onions of course changes the flavor, but I think next time I make this (and I do plan on making it again), I will use a bouquet garni and just take it out prior to serving.  I also used canned, rinsed black beans in place of the dried beans the original recipe calls for in order to save time.

This is a heavy dish, so we ate it with a bit of steamed rice, lime wedges and whole wheat tortillas.  You really don’t need anything else!

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 5 slices bacon
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 4 very meaty beef short ribs, trimmed of their fat (about 2-2 1/2 pounds)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cans black beans, drained of their liquid and rinsed
  • Special equipment:  a 6 quart slow cooker

Cook the bacon until crisp in a large skillet.  While the bacon cooks, cut your tenderloin into 1″ chunks.  Remove the bacon from the skillet, and saute the tenderloin in the pan drippings along with the garlic until brown on all sides, about 6-7 minutes.

Once the tenderloin chunks have browned, remove them to the slow cooker.  Brown your short ribs on all sides in the remaining drippings.  Once the ribs are brown, place them into the slow cooker with the broth, beans, bacon, water, and ham hock.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper over everything, give it a good stir to mix everything and cook on low for 8 hours.

When the dish is completely cooked, remove the ham hock and bones from the short ribs.  Shred the rib meat with a couple of forks and serve over steamed rice.

This dish makes 8 1 1/4  cup servings.  It should be noted that this dish is not meant to be spicy, hence the absence of anything that might add fire to the flavor.  It is rather heavy, so it is best served as a standalone dish with rice or a salad.

This recipe was modified from its original form, found in the March 2011 issue of Cooking Light here.

Bourbon-braised Short Ribs with Savory Cheddar-Thyme Polenta


If you aren’t fully aware (or living in a cave), the majority of the country is buried under some form of frozen precipitation, our part of Texas included.  Needless to say, with a couple of inches of solid ice on the ground, neither I or Sweet Baboo had to go off to school today.  I was supposed to be off work today anyhow, as I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment, but the weather closed her office down too.   I’d decided over the weekend that since I was going to be home today anyhow, that I’d make the short ribs I bought a couple of weeks ago that were sitting in the freezer.  Since we were iced in today and travel was going to be damned near impossible, it was a good opportunity to get some cooking done that I don’t normally get to do during the week when school is in session.

Enter the bourbon-braised short ribs:

These bourbon braised short ribs made for a perfect cold weather dinner. The bourbon adds a nice flavor to the pot liquor that warms you to your toes.

I’d been wanting to make short ribs for quite some time, especially since I saw this recipe over at Pioneer Woman’s blog.  However, I didn’t have any red wine in the house, nor did I have shallots (not that it matters; can’t use them anyway).  So I did a bit of research to get a general idea of how braised short ribs should be made, and came up with my own version.  And the verdict:  they were absolutely luscious, rich and oh so good!  I served my ribs atop a bed of cheddar-thyme polenta, which was an excellent accompaniment.  Mashed potatoes would also be good here.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 6 meaty beef short ribs (the meatier, the better); about 2 pounds
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup good bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots, plus 2 cups whole baby-cut carrots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (chopped), plus 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse grind black pepper (or use freshly ground)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Before you begin cooking, set the short ribs out on the countertop to allow them to come to room temperature.  This helps them to cook more evenly when you are browning them.

Once your ribs have come to room temperature, pat them dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.  This aids in the browning process (thanks Julia Child!).  Sprinkle them with the salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.  Once it is hot, carefully add the ribs to the pot, but do not crowd them.  You want to brown them on the meaty sides of the ribs, about 2 or 3 minutes or so on each side, until they have a lovely brown color.  If your ribs do not fit, then perform this step in batches so that the meat does not crowd the pan.  Remove the ribs from the pan to a bowl for the time being.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Once you have browned the meat, deglaze the pot with the cup of bourbon.  If you have a gas stove, be careful at this step!  You will be met with a cloud of bourbony goodness.  Stir the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, and then add the garlic, chopped thyme, celery and carrots to the pot.  Give them a quick saute, about 3 minutes or so, enough to coat the veggies with the little sauce you’ve just made.

Add the ribs back to the pot, standing them up in the vegetables.  Pour the beef broth over the contents of the pot.  Toss the sprigs of thyme on top and carefully stir in the granulated garlic.  Cover the pot tightly with the lid, and place in the oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

The greatest thing about this is that you put it in the oven, and walk away.

As for the polenta, that was easy to make too.  You need:

  • 1 cup polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add the salt, and slowly pour the polenta into the boiling water in a steady stream, whisking it in.  Once all the polenta has been added and incorporated into the water, turn the heat down to low.  Allow this to cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 15-20 minutes.  When the polenta is cooked, stir in the butter until it melts, and then stir in the cheeses and thyme until evenly distributed and melted through.

The short ribs recipe makes enough for 3 people to have two short ribs apiece, plus veggies.  The polenta recipe makes about 6 cups, so there may be leftovers.