Chicken Tagine

As the proud owner of a Big Green Egg, I am sold on the joys of ceramic cookware and the consistently even and moist heat that they produce. So I was very happy when Emile Henry sent me a flame-proof tagine to try out.

A tagine is a North-African meal named for the cone-topped ceramic pot in which it is cooked. Typically it’s a heavily-spiced stew that’s slowly braised in the sealed pot so that all of the flavors meld together while the meat becomes amazingly tender.

This recipe of a rough adaptation of Adam Perry Lang’s Moroccan Lamb Stew from his Serious Barbecue book. I really like the idea of grilling the meat first to get it charred and crispy, adding it to the veggies, and then letting the tagine do it’s magic.

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all of the spices in a small bowl and mix them together. Put the chicken in a zip-top bag, dust it with the spice mix, and toss them to make sure that all of the thighs are covered. Squeeze the air out of the bag, sealed it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

1 large onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
4 ounces butter

Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in the bottom half of the tagine. Removed from the heat and add the remaining veggies and spices.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (500°F) heat.

Grill the thighs for about 3-5 minutes a side. They don’t have to be cooked through – what you are looking for are some good grill marks and some crispy bits. When the thighs are nice and brown, move them off to the bottom of the tagine with the veggies. Push the thighs into the mixture so that they are at least partially covered with liquid.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium (350°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg this means removing the grate and dropping in the inverted plate setter. On a kettle-style grill you could just move the briquettes to the sides. On a gas grill you’d want to turn off the middle burner and reduce the heat on the side ones.

Set the bottom half of the tagine on the grill.

Cover the tagine, close the lid on the grill, and let the goodies braise for an hour.

Bring the whole works to the table, crack the lid open, and voilà – fragrant,  spicy, warm, and tender.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I had not cooked with a tagine before, and frankly couldn’t imagine how if would be any different than using a Dutch oven – boy, was I wrong. The tagine really seemed to concentrate flavors. While the veggies cooked down quite a bit, they also caramelized more than I expected and didn’t turn all mushy.

The flavors were wonderful. No one flavor dominated, so it wasn’t overwhelming, but still very complex. I was afraid with all the sweet spices and honey that the dish would end up cloying, but it turned out to be very savory, warm, and aromatic.

What Eggs are Supposed to Look Like

I have an “egg connection” who gets us free-range, organic eggs from a 4-H student for next to nothing. She hauls half a dozen cartons up whenever she comes to visit.  I’d gotten so used to the uniformly-white, all-one-size ones that I forgotten what real eggs look like. Look at this glorious dozen! Every one of them looks like it came out of a different chicken’s butt – small to extra-large, mottled brown to almost a pale rose, rough pebbled shells and silky-smooth ones too.

And look at this yolk – high, thick, and deep yellow. This is what you get from chickens who get to peck and scratch and eat grasshoppers (well, when they’re in season, anyway ;)). It’ll be a real shame when the kid graduates and we have to go back to tasty, but boring organic eggs from the store.

Reuben Dip

I have been in love with this recipe ever since I spotted it over at Noble Pig. I would really like a decent Reuben sandwich, but with the whole Celiacs thing I’ve yet to find a gluten-free bread that really holds up to grilling. That’s the joy of this dip – it’s everything I love about a good Reuben, just in a dip form.

1/2 pound corned beef, diced
1 (8-ounce)package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 1/4 cup sauerkraut, drained well.
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon caraway seed
1 Against the Grain Gluten-Free baguette, sliced into rounds and toasted

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Combine the corned beef, cream cheese, 1 cup of the sauerkraut, sour cream, ketchup, and mustard in a medium bowl.  Spoon 1/2 the mixture into a 1-quart baking dish. Top with half of the Swiss cheese. Spoon in the rest of the mixture, and top with the rest of the Swiss cheese, the remaining 1/4 cup of sauerkraut, and the caraway seeds.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Boy, am I glad the nephews didn’t care for my corned beef ;). The leftovers made this a wonderfully rich and ever so naughty dip. Plan on sharing this one as the two of us couldn’t eat more than a couple of rounds worth before being stuffed. The next time I make this it’ll be for a holiday party where I can share the love.

Simple Spring Steaks

Nothing earth-shattering here, just the joy that comes from moving onto daylight-savings time, getting past the vernal equinox, and finally being able to stand on the deck and actually see the food I’m grilling.

I fired up the Big Green Egg and set it up for a hot (600°F+) direct cook.

These rib eyes got a light coating of olive oil, a bit of Dizzy Pig’s Raising the Steaks, and a couple of grinds of sea salt before they were ready for the grill.

I grilled them for 90 seconds, rotated them 90 degrees and gave them another 30 seconds. Then I flipped them and repeated the process on the other side.

For the guests we had over I went a little more to the medium side of medium-rare and pulled them off the grate when the thickest steak hit 130°F internal (after about another 30 seconds on the grill). I pulled them off the grill and onto a warm plate and covered them with another plate, and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
The steaks got raves and I joked that they were the best steaks I’ve made this Spring (true enough). For as simple as they were, I don’t think I could have done any better. They were not, however, my A-game steaks.  Those would be the bombs from Adam Perry Lang’s BBQ 25. When I have the time and inclination, those are the way to go.

Oven-Baked Oatmeal

My version of breakfast usually focuses heavily on eggs, pancakes, and fried pork products. While that’s great on the weekend when I’ve got time to cook, it’s tough to pull off during the week. Monday through Friday I need something that I can take to work and enjoy while my computer is booting up.

I borrowed this wonderful breakfast recipe from fellow Accidental Hedonist alumnus Cheryl over at 5 Second Rule. It’s a seriously hearty and filling casserole with all kinds of fruity bits in it that was originally from Faith Durand’s cookbook Not Your Mother’s Casseroles. It keeps well in the fridge, so I made a double batch and my dear wife and I have had it every morning this week. She likes it hot with a little whole milk. I really enjoy it cold topped with a scoop of Greek yogurt.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups steel-cut oats
4 cups water
3 cups milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup raisins or dried plums
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.  In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the oats. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until the oats brown and everything starts smelling toasty. Add the water and milk and bring to a simmer for a minute or two.

Remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the goodies – sugar, fruit, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Pour into the baking pan. Bake for until the top starts to brown, about 35 minutes. They might still look thin and soupy, but they will thicken up after they have cooled.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is an excellent rich and creamy breakfast. The browned oatmeal and coconut gives it some crunch and texture, and the apples and dried fruit add a lot of sweetness without adding much extra sugar. Adding some Greek yogurt and a few chopped walnuts makes it a complete breakfast that sticks with me until lunch. I can see trying this with fresh apricots and dried cranberries, or with dates and almonds too. Thanks Cheryl
!

Tamale Pie

This dish is way more Tex than Mex, but it was a lovely way to use up some leftover carnitas. I threw this together in a hurry, so some of the measurements may be approximations ;).

1 1/2 pounds carnitas
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour (I used Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (4-ounce) can green chillies
1 big handful whole black olives, chopped
2-3 big handfuls shredded “Mexican” cheese (any Colby-Jack blend works fine)
1 handful of pickled jalapeño slices
Glug or 2 of salsa

Pre-heat oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13 baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, chili powder, and cumin. Stir to combine. Add the milk, oil, egg, green chillies, and a handful of the cheese. Stir to combine.

Pour half of the batter into the baking pan. Distribute the carnitas in a more or less even layer on top of the batter.

Cover carnitas with the remaining batter. Top with olives, jalapeños, salsa, and the rest of the cheese.

Bake about 45 minutes,  or until the cheese is golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

I served it up with some sliced tomatoes and guacamole, and topped it with a little crema and Valentina Salsa Picante.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I had zero aspirations for this recipe, other than to use up the tasty carnitas and get a quick dinner on the table. This dish delivered in a hugely non-authentic way. The fat in the carnitas really crisped up the cornbread. Almost like Yorkshire pudding.

Hmmmm, Mexican Yorkshire pudding?!?

Corned Beef

Since I come from the line of barbarous folk that gave Hadrian good cause to build his wall, it’s a matter of pride that I cure my own brisket for corned beef. But seeing as it’s a little late now to get that done before St. Paddy’s Day this Thursday, here’s a recipe that you can use with a store-bought corned brisket to create that iconic Irish-American dish with a smoky twist.

Buy a 3 to 4 pound pre-seasoned corned beef brisket. Throw away the nasty package of seasoning that came with it, remove the brisket from the brine, and rinse with fresh cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Move the brisket to plastic container with a lid, or a large zip-top freezer bag, and cover with water. Store in the fridge at least overnight, and up to 48 hours, changing the water a couple of times.

Smoking

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at between 225 to 250°F. Add wood for smoke (I like grape vine for this dish).

While the grill is getting up to temp, remove the brisket from the water and pat dry. Season with a few grinds of black pepper. Cook at 225°F for about 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat hits 160°F. Remove the brisket from the grill and let it rest on a cutting board.

Braising

1 medium cabbage, shredded
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 bay leaves
Enough water to come up about halfway on the cabbage

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a large Dutch oven, add the cabbage, garlic, spices, and water. Bring cabbage to a boil over high heat. Cook uncovered until cabbage has started to wilt (about 5 minutes). Remove pan from heat and lay the brisket on top of the cabbage. Add enough water so that it comes half way up the brisket. Cover the dutch oven and move to the oven. Braise until the cabbage is tender and the meat is very tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the corned beef and slice thinly across the grain. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cabbage to a large platter. Lay the sliced meat over cabbage and ladle over with a little of the remaining liquid. Serve with boiled potatoes.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
While my nephew didn’t care for it (his loss), I thought it was a tasty dish – tender flavorful meat on a bed of savory cabbage with a salty/smoky broth. Yum! The only thing better than corned beef and cabbage is the corned beef hash and Reuben sandwiches that I’ll be making later this week with the leftovers.

What Do You Call It?

This morning I shot six holes in my freezer.
I think I got cabin fever…
I gotta go where it’s warm!

BOAT DRINKS, Jimmy Buffett

We’ve had continuous snow cover for over 120 days, 78.7 inches this season, and another 4 inches expected within the next couple of days. I’ve given up trying to clear the deck and have had to satisfy myself with shoveling a path to the Big Green Egg. Continue reading “What Do You Call It?”

Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I love enchiladas, but never seem to have the time or (truth be told) patience to make them. While this casserole version isn’t authentic, it is a great bit of gluten-free comfort food. Braising the thighs in the slow cooker makes them incredibly tender and tasty while reducing the hands-on time. This is adapted from a Kill the Gluten recipe.

1 (14.5-ounce) can of gluten-free cream of chicken soup (Health Valley)
3-4 teaspoons of gluten free flour (Pamela’s Baking mix)
8 ounces sour cream
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16-ounce) jar salsa verde (Trader Joe’s)
1 (4-ounce) can green chiles
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
8 corn tortillas
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup water

Put the chicken thighs in the crock pot with the salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and water and simmer on low until they are falling apart done (about 4 hours). You could even do this the day ahead if you wanted.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

In a small saucepan, bring the soup to a boil of medium-high heat.  Gradually add the flour and whisk until desired thickness (it will thicken more after cooling). Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine soup, sour cream, salsa, green chiles, jalapeño, garlic, and onion. Stir to combine.

Spread a small amount of the sauce in a 9×13 baking pan. Layer on half of the tortillas, half the chicken, a little more sauce, and half the cheese. Then layer on the remaining tortillas, sauce, chicken, and cheese.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the dish is bubbly and cheese has started to brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
When the weather calls for tasty, rich, and filling comfort food, this casserole fits the bill. The chicken was very tender and the chilies gave it just the right amount of warm, green heat.

There is a line where rich and filling becomes thick and gloppy. This dish (thankfully) sits just on the right side of said line, but it could use a little help. Next time I might try crisping the tortillas up a bit first and adding some more veggies like bell peppers or green onions.