Category Archives: fowl play

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.

Maple-Orange Glazed Turkey Breast, plus brine


For some people (like my husband), turkey isn’t a meat they particularly care to eat at any time of year, much less Christmas.  Let’s face it, turkey gets top billing at most holiday tables, and because so much tends to be consumed, rarely is it made and eaten again during the year.  Personally, I’m a fan of turkey because it’s generally pretty lean and can be flavored many different ways, like chicken.  So I’m down to eat turkey whenever, wherever.

I decided we’d have fancy Christmas dinner at home on Christmas Eve (which didn’t materialize–long story) and that we’d have turkey breast.  Since there are only two of us with a very small freezer whose space is at a premium, it makes no sense to buy an entire bird for two.   The grocery store where we shop sells bone-in split turkey breast, so I bought two of those and decided to go from there.

Back in 2007, I’d made a maple glazed bird for a family Christmas gathering at my mom’s that was very well received.  I’d bought the bird, pre-brined by the butcher and then coated it with a maple herb butter concoction I’d made, basting it once it began cooking so that it would all seep into the bird evenly.  This time, I didn’t have a whole bird, and I didn’t want just a maple flavor.  I also didn’t have brined turkey to work with since I’d bought fresh split breasts.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Brine?  Isn’t that just salt water?”  Yeah it is, but I gotta tell you:  It’s all about the brine, baby.  If the only turkey you’ve ever eaten said “Butterball” on it, you’ve had a somewhat brined bird–you just didn’t realize it.  Next time you buy one of those, look at the label for the part that says “injected with __% saline solution.”  That’s a type of brine.

The brine is what helps keep the bird moist during the cooking time by relaxing the proteins of the muscle fibers somewhat.  For a more thorough explanation, read more here.  The great thing about brining a bird (it also works for lean pork too) is that it can help impart great flavor, dependent on what is in the brine mixture.  Because I wanted my bird to have a maple-orange flavor throughout and not just on the skin, I crafted my brine with those flavors too.

After I brined my turkey breasts for almost 2 days, then I roasted them off in the oven and oh my word…

When there are only two people eating, bone-in turkey breast is a great way to still have turkey for the holidays. The key to cooking the breast here is the brine.

I’m not gonna lie, this was the best turkey breast I have ever eaten:  juicy, full of flavor and absolutely gorgeous coming out of the oven.  So without further ado, here’s how you can make your own.  I’ll warn you, this is a several-day process, so don’t read this expecting to get it on your dinner table tonight or even tomorrow night.  It took me 3 days to get the above result.  Also, you will have to adjust your quantities for the amount of bird you are cooking.  The brine recipe was for 2 split bone-in breasts that were about 7 pounds total.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

For the brine:

  • 4 quarts of water
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dark maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • peel of one orange (I used a vegetable peeler to remove just the peel, taking care not to get any of the white pith underneath)
  • 2 tablespoons peppercorns

In a large stockpot, dissolve the salt and sugar in the water.  Add the syrup, thyme, garlic, peppercorns and orange peel, stirring to mix.  Allow this mixture to come to a slight boil.  Once the flavors have had a chance to marry, remove this from the heat and cool completely in the refrigerator (overnight is best).  NOTE:  some people like to cool their brines immediately with ice, and then plunge their birds into the diluted brine.  I elected not to do this, since it would dilute the mixture and thus dilute the flavor.  This is one reason this process took a long time.  Also, note that this brine recipe is not terribly salty, so your bird will not take on a salty flavor if you are worried about such things.  It won’t be sweet either, even though there is a lot of sweet going on here.

To prepare the turkey for brining the next day, you will need:

  • 2 fresh split bone-in turkey breasts, about 7 pounds total

You have a couple of options here.  You can either plunge the turkey directly into the cold brine, and let it sit in the pot you cooked the brine in, or you can do what I did.  I got a large 3-quart baking dish and a couple of gallon ziplock bags.  I placed a turkey breast in each bag, and set the bags into the baking dish.  I then used a ladle to cover the meat with the brine, sealed the bags tightly, making sure much of the air was pushed out (so that room could be made for liquid) and set them flat in the refrigerator so that the meat was submerged in the brine.  I allowed this to sit for roughly 36 hours.

You can also make the Maple-Orange Herb Butter ahead of time so that when it is time to finally cook the bird, everything is ready.  Here’s how I made it.  You will need:

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • salt to taste

In a saucepan, heat the orange juice to a boil, cooking until its volume is reduced by half.  Add the maple syrup and butter, melting the butter.  Whisk in the thyme, whisking the mixture so the butter incorporates with the reduced juice and syrup.  Pour the mixture into a container and refrigerate until slightly solid.  You will smear this onto the turkey before and during cooking.

After the breasts were sufficiently brined, here is how I cooked them.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Remove the breasts from the brine and give them a quick rinse.  Set them on a jelly roll pan covered in parchment paper (easy cleanup, for the win!) and coat the tops of the breasts with the maple-orange herb butter you prepared earlier.  If you can, slide some of the butter mixture under the skin as well, since this will give the bird more flavor (and who doesn’t like that?).  Roast the breasts for about 2 hours, drizzling the butter mixture over the top about every 45 minutes.  The turkey will be done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 170-180 degrees.

Let the meat sit for about 15 minutes before cutting into it, or you risk releasing all that lovely juiciness of the meat onto your serving plate, and then you’ll be sad that you worked so hard to make a juicy bird only to have the juices on the plate and not in your mouth.

Since I cooked two breasts, this recipe served 2 adults for 2 meals.  I will seriously make turkey breast this way from now on.  Labor intensive?  Yes.  Flavor intensive?  Oh yeah.

Arroz con Pollo


Since being on holiday, I’ve done a bit of meal planning and prep work for upcoming meals for the week, some of which are more elaborate than the usual weeknight fare we have here. Last night, I decided we’d have something that was relatively fast and easy to fix since I’d been busy all day and SB was tired from the long day at school (they were in session until today!). Enter arroz con pollo:

Simple. Tasty. Comfort food.

It’s a variation of the usual chicken and rice dinner that I used to cook quite a lot as a kid, when both my repetoire and palate were much more limited than they are now.

I’ll start off by saying that this recipe really does need onions to add depth of flavor, but due to food allergy issues in our house, they have been omitted. If you do make this yourself, add half a small onion that has been finely diced to the rice when you brown it.

Here’s how I made the dish. You will need:

  • 4 chicken leg quarters, excess fat removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, raw
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • OPTIONAL: half a small onion, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the leg quarters by removing any excess fat and skin, or your finished dish will be extremely greasy. Sprinkle the leg quarters liberally with salt and pepper. On either a broiling pan or a rack set in a jelly roll pan, roast the leg quarters for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the leg is pierced with a fork. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

During the last 15 minutes of the chicken cooking time, in a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat so that you can brown the rice. You will know that the oil is hot enough when you put a couple of rice grains in it and they dance a bit in the pan. When the oil is hot, add the rice and stir it around as it browns slightly. If you decide to use onion, this is where you want to add it in. Once the rice is lightly browned, add in your tomato sauce and stir. Add in the water and spices, and stir thoroughly to mix. Let this mixture cook for a few minutes until it begins to bubble. Once the rice begins to bubble, add in the chicken and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to simmer, and allow the rice to cook, stirring only a couple of times as you don’t want your rice to be mushy. Allow the rice to cook for about 30 minutes, and tilt the lid slightly to allow steam to escape during the last 8-10 minutes. Then, turn off the heat, close the lid and let the dish finish steam cooking for about 10 minutes. Serve while hot.

We ate ours with mashed pinto beans and cheese. This would also be good with a green salad and tortillas. This recipe made 4 servings: 1 leg quarter plus about a cup of rice each, so for us, we got two really yummy meals out of this recipe.

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.

Chicken Jambalaya


The past two weeks have been busy ones and I haven’t gotten to do a lot of cooking, sadly.  I do plan, however, to make an awesome chile colorado (old school Mex!) this weekend.  I’ve been under a lot of stress, and I find that one thing that relieves my stress is cooking, so I suppose I ought to do more of it.

Tonight, though, I had Sweet Baboo cook dinner from a recipe I wrote for him earlier in the day.  I’d been craving some Cajun cooking, and after going to the store on Sunday and picking up a pretty bell pepper, decided we’d have jambalaya for dinner one night this week.  I had to work late tonight, so SB cooked for us, following the recipe below.

 

Chicken jambalaya...an easy, tasty dinner with a bite!

 

I wrote him the recipe, he cooked it, and boy, was it good!  Here’s how he did it.  You will need:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced into bite-size pieces (I use these because they add a lot of flavor)
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes in their juice
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you like for more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups instant white rice (we use the microwavable kind)

Put a teaspoon of canola oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven and heat it.  Place the chicken in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until done.  You may have to drain a bit of fat off here.

Next, add in the garlic, celery and diced bell pepper.  Stir this around so that it is evenly mixed.  Add about a teaspoon of garlic powder.  Note that the onion normally a part of Cajun/Creole cuisine’s “trinity” flavor base is absent here.  If food allergies are not an issue in your household, I would add a cup of diced onion here.

Pour in two cans of diced tomatoes and season the mixture with the cayenne pepper and thyme.  Add the chicken stock and stir.  Let this simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.  After the mixture has simmered for about 25 minutes, add in your rice and stir to evenly distribute.  Taste for flavor and season accordingly.  Serve hot, with Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce if you like.

I am looking forward to eating this as leftovers tomorrow night with a bit of crusty bread and butter!