Kung Pao Chicken

I’ve been working on this recipe for a while. It started out as the marinade for my Spicy Asian Shrimp and evolved from there.

Please make an effort to find both the black bean sauce and the Sichuan peppercorns. The sauce adds a lot of depth and heat to the dish and the peppercorns provide that unique tingling/numbing sensation that offsets the heat.

1 pound chicken (I used tenders), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 cup peanuts
4-6 dried whole tien tsin peppers
½ cup sliced scallions, chopped
4 whole garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup baby spinach

Marinade
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1  teaspoon cornstarch

Kung Pao Sauce
1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
1 tablespoon black bean chili sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Put the chicken pieces in a zip-top bag and pour the marinade over them. Turn to coat, then squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it up, and stash in the fridge while you prepare the sauce.

Combine the chili paste, black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, wine and cornstarch. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the cornstarch is fully incorporated.

Heat a wok with oil over medium-high heat. Before the oil begins to smoke, add the chilies and garlic. Stir-fry briefly until the chilis are slightly blistered and black and oil is slightly fragrant. Add the chicken and stir-fry for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Pour in sauce and mix to coat the other ingredients. When the sauce is thickened and shiny, stir in peanuts, cilantro, and spinach. Mix to coat, reduce heat and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Garnish with thinly sliced scallions, and serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is a quick and tasty dish that saves us from the nutritional horrors of take-out. It’s sweet, sour, salty, and hot all at the same time.

The Nutrition:
1 1/2 cups is 435 calories and 9 Weight Watchers points. Adding the cilantro and spinach and cutting back on the peanuts makes this a much lighter recipe. Serve it with a little brown rice and a lot of steamed broccoli and it is very filling.

One year ago – Warm Up Wings & Tenders
Two years ago – Ze Boeuf

Weeknight Coq au Vin

Coq au Van

This is not Julia Child’s masterful rendition of the classic French chicken dish. This is Dave’s “it’s-7-freakin-degrees-out-there-and-I-need-me-some-comfort-food-right-now-dammit” version, by way of Cook’s Illustrated and the Star Tribune.

2 bottles (750 ml) medium-bodied red wine (One for you, one for the bird. A jammy Pinot Noir works great for both)
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons dried parsley, divided
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
4 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4 -inch lardons (look it up, it’s worth it)
3-4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half crosswise
3 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, chopped
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato powder
2 tablespoons flour (I used gluten-free baking mix)
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large sauce pan, combine 1 bottle of wine, stock, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced to 3 cups (about 25 minutes).

Coq au Van

While that’s boiling, cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned and crispy. Transfer the bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Pour off half the fat and reserve.

Coq au Van

Once the wine and stock are reduced, pour through a strainer to remove the herbs, and set the reduced wine mixture aside for later.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the bacon fat in the Dutch oven over medium heat just until just smoking. Working in small batches, brown the chicken on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Add more bacon fat as needed. Transfer browned chicken to a plate.

When all of the chicken is browned, melt the butter in the Dutch oven over medium heat. When it stops foaming, add the onions and mushrooms. Cook and stir occasionally until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the tomato powder and flour. Cook and stir until well combined.

Add the reduced wine mixture, scraping the bottom of the pot with a spatula to loosen the browned bits. Return the chicken and any juices that have accumulate on the plate. Add the reserved bacon to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and deduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Give it a stir, crack the lid about half an inch, and increase the heat just a titch. Continue to cook, stirring every so often, until chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced a bit (about another 25 minutes).

Coq au Van

Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, top with remaining parsley and serve immediately over egg noodles or mashed potatoes (or fauxtatoes from She Cooks He Cleans, in this case) with the remaining bottle of wine.

The Verdict Verdict: ★★★★★
Nothing but goodness here – tender chicken rolling in a savory sauce full of onions, mushrooms, and bacon.  Reducing the wine and stock in advance goes a long way in creating a wonderfully umami-rich sauce that tastes like you’ve been cooking it all day long.

The only changes I would make would be to go with the more classic pearl onions (frozen and bagged, thank you) and maybe add a bit of carrots for depth and color.

The Nutrition
Comforting doesn’t have to destroy your diet. By bumping up the mushrooms and  dialing back on the butter a little from the original recipe, this 8-serving dish is 400 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – Roast Chicken with Winter Veggies
Two years ago – New Pans!

Pouding Chômeur

Raisin Pudding

Literally “unemployed or poor man’s pudding.” Originally from Quebec, this depression dessert is really a cake batter that’s covered with hot syrup before baking. The cake rises up and mixes with the syrup, making little pools of spongy wonderfulness and bubbling caramel.

Like any good poverty food, this is easy to make, tasty, and keeps you full and warm on a cold day.

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour (I used Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Combine flour, white sugar, salt, baking powder, raisins, currants, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix well to combine and then pour into a buttered 2-quart casserole.

Combine brown sugar, water, and butter in a saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes. Pour over hot mixture into casserole over the batter, being careful not to mix.

Bake until topping is golden and firm to the touch, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Let rest ofter baking for 15 minutes to let the sauce thicken up a bit. Best served warm.

raisinpuddingP1130060

The Verdict Verdict: ★★★★★
Sweet, rich, and tender – you will not feel the least bit impoverished while eating this. I made this for a friend’s birthday and it was a hit.

The Nutrition:
There is no such thing as poor diet food.

One year ago – Chili Verde
Two years ago – Siberian Ribs

Plowboys Chicken

Plowboys Chicken

I had heard a lot of good reviews of Plowboys Yardbird Rub and finally picked some up this summer only to completely forget about it in the cupboard until last weekend. Bad Dave.

2 roasting chickens
1 tablespoon Plowboys Yardbird Rub (or your favorite rub) per pound of chicken

Clean and rinse the chickens, then pat them dry. Butterfly (a.k.a. spatchcock) the birds by setting the bird in front of you, breast side down, and cutting up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife.

Now spread the bird open like a book and locate the keel bone that sits between the breasts. Nick it with a knife to get it to open up, but don’t cut all the way through. Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the bird until it lies pretty flat.

Rub both sides of the birds with the rub, working it under the skin a bit. Set the birds skin side up on a pan (I use a large jellyroll pan) and put them in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour. This not only lets the rub do its flavorful thing, but also helps dry out the skin a bit so it stays crispy.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at medium-high (400°F) heat. I used an extender to move the cooking grate up higher in the Big Green Egg’s dome. This way the chicken is getting cooked with a nice, large, even amount of heat on both sides and I still get the smoky flavor from the chicken fat dripping on the coals.

Plowboys Chicken

When your grill is up to temp, arrange the chickens on the grate skin side up. Close the lid and let them cook for 20 minutes. Flip and cook skin-side down for 20 minutes. Flip again and cook skin-side up until the chicken is done – 180°F internal in the thickest part of the thigh or until the leg joint moves easily and the juices run clear.

Remove chicken from grill and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Plowboys Yardbird Rub

Overall Verdict: ★★★★½
Plowboys Yardbird rub is an award-winning rub developed for competing at professional barbecue events. It is a savory, slightly parka-heavy rub that hits all the right notes – enhancing the flavor with a bit of sweetness and heat and adding ruddy hue to the meat without overwhelming the meat itself.

I enjoyed this rub on the chickens and, since “Created for Chicken but Made for Pork” is their tag line, I can’t wait to try it on ribs.

The Nutrition:
3 ounces of chicken meat is only about 100 calories and 3 or 4 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – Beef Short Ribs
Two years ago – Siberian Ribs

New Year’s Bo Ssam

Bo Ssam

A little change in plans for New Years. I was going to make prime rib, but the more I thought about it the more it felt like it was one of those been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt meals.

Don’t get me wrong – I love prime rib, but I decided it was time to cross something new off of my culinary bucket list.

This particular Bo Ssam recipe has been on said list for a while now. It is courtesy of Indirect Heat, who took the Momofoku recipe and added some (much appreciated) wood smoke to the mix.

Bo Ssam
1 whole pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston butt), 8 to 10 pounds
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons brown sugar

I made a dry cure by mixing the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together. I poured half of the cure into a large zip-top bag, put the pork shoulder in on top of it, and covered it with the rest of the cure. Then I worked the cure in with my hands so it covered all of the shoulder as evenly as possible. I squeezed the air out of the bag, sealed it, set the bag in a 9×13 pan, and stashed it in the fridge overnight.

As the cure started to work, it pulls water out of the meat and forms a brining solution. I turned the bag every so often to evenly distribute the liquid.

The next day, I removed the shoulder from the brine and rinsed off any remaining cure. I patted it dry and arranged the shoulder with the fat cap up on a rack set in a roasting pan. I scored the fat cap with a paring knife and hit it with a bit of Dizzy Pig’s Tsunami Spin rub just to bump up the flavor/crispiness a little.

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I set the BGE up for a 8-hour indirect cook at 300°F. I filled the firebox all the way up with lump and used the inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat.

When the grill was up to temp, I added some guava wood for smoke, and when the smoke changed from white (bad) to blue (good), I loaded the grill with the rack full of pig.

While the shoulder was cooking, I made up the sauces and put together the accompaniments.

Ginger Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
1/2 cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil (grape seed in this case)
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

I combined the scallion, ginger, oil, soy sauce, and vinegar in a food processor and gave everything a whirl to combine. Then I saved it off in the fridge.

Ssam Sauce
2 tablespoons ssamjang (Korean fermented bean-and-chili paste, I used gluten-free red miso instead.)
2 tablespoons kochujang (Korean chili paste)
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup neutral-tasting oil (grape seed in this case)

I tried just mixing the chili paste and miso into the vinegar and oil, but they didn’t want to dissolve. I ended up pouring everything into a pint canning jar, warming it in the microwave for a minute or so, and then putting the lid on and shaking it to get it to combine.

Accompaniments
2 cups plain white rice, cooked
3 heads bibb or butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
Kimchi

After 5 hours on the grill, I checked the shoulder for doneness with a thermometer. I knew it wouldn’t be falling apart at this stage, but I wanted to make sure it was getting a nice smoke ring and that the fat had started to crisp up. My shoulder ended up taking 7 hours to hit 160°F internal.

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I moved the shoulder inside and wrapped it in a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, set it in a clean roast pan in the oven, and cooked it at 350°F until it hit 190°F internal – about another 3 hours.

I checked the shoulder for doneness again. This time by carefully unwrapping it and poking at it with a fork to see if the meat would yield and pull apart. It wasn’t ready to completely collapse, but it was tender enough that I could remove it from the foil and move it into a heat-proof serving dish (I used the base of my tagine) and put it back into the oven set on low and went out to enjoy our guests.

When we were ready to eat, I covered the shoulder with a mix of the remaining tablespoon of salt and the brown sugar and turned the oven up to 500°F. I turned on the exhaust fan, cracked open a window, and blasted the shoulder until the sugar melted into the meat and started to caramelize (about 10 minutes). I basted it once with the pan juices to melt all the sugar and gave it another 5 minutes in the oven to finish.

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When everything was a lovely, piggy, smoky, caramel crispy mass, I moved the shoulder to the center of the table and served with the sauces and fixings.

You assemble the bo ssam by first taking a lettuce leaf and then placing a bit of the pork, rice, kimchi, and sauces on it, then curl everything up together and enjoy.

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The Verdict: ★★★★★
Oh, wow! I’d give this 10 stars if I could. Not just good, but crazy good. Each little bundle had the perfect mix of sweet, salty, smoky, tangy, and spicy.

I was worried that the sugar would overwhelm everything, but the vinegary chile sauce took care or that and the kimchi and ginger cut right through the richness of the meat.

I was also really nice to have a dish that was tasty and impressive without being fussy. It took some time to prepare, but it mostly took care of itself. The only real hands time-sensitive, hands-on part was the last 15 minutes. So I got to spend New Year’s Eve having fun, and that is a huge plus in my book.

Happy New Year!

One year ago – New Year’s Prime Rib
Two years ago – Orange Cashew Tart