Anise Chicken: Ready for Summer Heatwaves

When summer arrives and the heat sets in, my appetite changes. I shift to lighter, easier meals—foods that perk up an often peckish appetite.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Chinese method of poaching chicken.  It results in a beautiful clear broth, utterly pristine flavors, and meat that is succulent and tender. Here’s an outstanding riff on that approach which requires very little actual cooking time—much relies on the broth’s residual heat to do the work. It’s an ideal technique for summertime heatwaves.

The idea comes from Wendy Kiang-Spray’s lovely cookbook The Chinese Kitchen Garden. A whole chicken (here I’ve used the equivalent, 2 Cornish game hens) is dry rubbed with salt, stuffed with whole star anise, and refrigerated for 1- 3 days. When ready to launch, it’s brought to room temperature before lowering into to a pot of simmering water and cooked uncovered for a mere 10 minutes. Then, it’s covered and allowed to steep in the hot broth’s residual heat for 45 minutes. The chicken is fast cooled in an ice water bath for 15 minutes and patted dry.

The resulting broth is bewitchingly addictive: the star anise flavor is present, but not overtly so.  It’s a lovely liquid for cooking rice, grains, vegetables, etc.  For a soup stock, I opted to keep it light and not overwhelm it with too many heavy flavors.

A few slices of ginger, some garlic, and a dash of soy sauce hit the right balance for a soba noodle soup with chicken and a few fresh vegetables.

The anise chicken has happily starred in a variety of applications. When pressed, I have whipped up a simple Asian dipping sauce, but Wendy also suggests a Ginger-Onion Garlic Oil, also included because it is such a nice touch.

Of my favorite uses, I remain a big fan of an easy Asian Chicken Salad served with plenty of sesame crepes (yum—coming soon!) along with spoonfuls of hoisin sauce for stuffing/rolling purposes. Welcome to summer 2017, rolling out with record 101° heat.

Anise Poached Chicken

Inspired by The Chinese Kitchen Garden by Wendy Kiang-Spray

Ingredients
3 pound whole chicken
2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coarse salt
20 pieces whole star anise
Ginger-Onion/Garlic Oil (optional)
2” section ginger, peel and slice
3-4 garlic whistles or 3 “bunching onions” (a leek-like variety), cut in 2” lengths
¼ cup oil

Directions

  1. Rinse and pat dry chicken. Rub inside and out with 2 tablespoons coarse salt. Place the star anise in the cavity. Place in zip lock and refrigerate 1-3 days.
  2. Remove chicken and bring to room temperature (about 1 hour ahead).
  3. Fill pot with enough water to cover chicken and bring to a boil.  Lower anise-filled chicken into pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer chicken uncovered 10 minutes. Skim residue off top of water. Turn off heat and cover with tight fitting lid.  Allow to steep undisturbed for another 45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.  Meanwhile make Ginger and Onion Oil. Crush ginger and onions with mortar and pestle or pulse in food processor. Place the paste in heatproof bowl and add 1 tsp salt.  Heat the oil until hot. Carefully pour the hot oil over the ginger and onion mixture.
  4. When chicken is cooked through, remove from pot, reserving pot liquid for another purpose:  cooking rice or other grain, etc.  Lower chicken into an ice water bath to quickly stop the cooking process. In about 15 minutes when cooled, remove and pat dry.
  5. Chop into pieces and serve with a drizzle of ginger-onion oil. Nice over steamed white rice or other. Serves 4-6.

Potstickers Galore

Not long ago, I came across a small bamboo stacked steamer in an Asian market that looked to be the right fit for my 5-quart Instant Pot.  It’s quite charming sitting in my tiny kitchen, but more than that, eyeing it caused my mouth to water—as visions of  steamed dumplings danced in my head.

When I spotted Martin Yan’s potsticker recipe I knew I had the perfect excuse to pull everything together and start cooking.  Although I tailored this for my Instant Pot and steamer set-up, any steamer, wok or large  pan with a lid or foil to seal will do the trick.

The process is very much like making wontons. Martin incorporates Napa cabbage, ground pork or turkey, and dried black mushrooms in his filling. I’ve made a few adjustments, like adding an egg white for binder and extra moisture plus a bit of hoisin and mushroom soy sauce instead of oyster sauce. Instructions follow for Instant Pot as well as Martin Yan’s browning/steaming in a 12” sauté pan.

This makes plenty of potstickers!

I ended up making batches two days in a row—smartly pacing self to avoid eating all potstickers in sight.  So many did I have, there was an Asian salad event and more to freeze for a later soup.

Potstickers

Inspired by Martin Yan’s potstickers.

Ingredients
40 round potsticker or wonton wrappers
2 tablespoons cooking oil
water
CB’s Spicy Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons  sriracha sauce or chile paste
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Filling
4 dried Shiitake mushrooms
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage (approx.)
2 tablespoons green onion, chop
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound ground pork or ground turkey
1 clove garlic, mince
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Directions

  1. Make spicy dipping sauce: in a small bowl, combine ingredients and set aside.
  2. Soak mushrooms: In a bowl, soak mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Discard stems and coarsely chop caps.
  3. Salt cabbage: In a bowl, combine Napa cabbage and salt, toss well and set aside until cabbage wilts, about for 5 minutes. Squeeze out and discard excess water.
  4. For filling: combine mushrooms and cabbage with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl; mix well.
  5. To shape potstickers: moisten the edges of the round wrapper and place a teaspoonful of filling in center. Pull up, flatten bottom, and pleat edges with some filling showing. Or, lightly fold in half, then press the outer edges inward to create a 4-pronged star on top. Keep remaining wrappers covered with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying. Repeat until filling is used or set aside half and make as needed.
  6. To steam in Instant Pot: line 2 steamer baskets with cabbage leaves or parchment paper.  Set in baskets without touching. In bottom of Instant Pot add about 2 cups water.  Place bamboo steamer on wire rack and cover with bamboo lid or seal top with foil. Cover tightly, close vents, steam for 6 minutes and use quick release.  Repeat as desired.  Yield: about 40 potstickers.

Variations:
To fully cook in skillet:  heat 10-12” skillet over medium high until hot.  Add 1 tablespoons oil to coat bottom of pan.  Add about 10 potstickers, flat side down and cook until bottom are golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Add 1/3 cup water, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until water is absorbed, 4-5 minutes. Remove and serve with spicy dipping sauce.
To reheat/brown the bottoms:  if desired, heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoons oil to cover bottom of pan, add a layer of cooked potstickers and cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add a couple of spoonfuls of water in pan to create steam, cover and cook briefly until warmed through and water is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Serve with spicy dipping sauce.

Layered Lentil Salad—in a Jar

If you are looking for ways to add more salad to your life here’s a fun, make-ahead solution that even includes its own dressing!

Photo by Danbury Poage

Pull out a wide mouthed Mason jar, pour in a little salad dressing, then pack in ingredients—layering heavier items on bottom and ending with more fragile vegetables and lettuce on top.  While at it, make a few extra to pull out as needed; they will hold several days in the fridge without lettuce becoming soggy.

The star of this salad is the nuanced peppery le Puy lentil, a firm, dark green variety that holds its shape very well.  They can be found in better grocery stores and in most bulk food sections; but if not available substitute garbanzo beans.

Radishes, fennel or celery are all excellent salad companions here, along with contrasting narrow strips of young zucchini.  At the base of the salad dressing, a spicy or grainy mustard not only provides a bright bite, it also acts as an emulsifier to bind the dressing from separation while it stands.

Photo by Danbury Poage

When ready, give the salad a good shake and empty contents into a pasta bowl or other wide bowl.  Toss well to distribute dressing and enjoy.

Layered Lentil Salad in a Jar

Ingredients
2 to 3 tablespoons Mustard Dressing (see below) or favorite salad dressing
¼ cup thinly sliced fennel or celery, or a combination with a few fronds or leaves
¼ cup radishes (about 8), cut lengthwise in eighths
⅓ cup le Puy lentils, cooked, or garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, halved + 3 sliced Kalamata olives
½ baby zucchini, cut into spirals or shaved strips with a potato peeler
1-2 cups mesclun, or other lettuce blend
1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seed
Mustard Dressing (enough for 3- 4 servings)
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Spicy Brown or Grainy mustard
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper
⅓ cup olive oil

3-4 cup wide mouth Mason jar
Pasta bowl or other large wide bowl
 
Directions 

  1. To prepare dressing, combining vinegar, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper, then add the olive oil and whisk or shake until thorough incorporated.
  2. In a mason jar pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons dressing.
  3. Pack ingredients in individual layers in the order listed. Substitute similar items as desired, placing heavier, denser on bottom, followed by beans and proteins, then softer ingredients, and finish with lettuce or sprouts.  Serves 1.

Make Ahead Salad? Consider crunchy cabbage slaw

Cabbage is a wonderful thing, but it took me a long time to reach that conclusion.  It’s a caterer’s best friend, as well as anyone into recreational dining.  It is refreshing, adaptable, and holds very well.  Here’s a slaw that moves beyond the dull standard mayonnaise based variety.

If making ahead, the salting process and a slightly wider shred work well in maintaining crispness.  If not an issue, omit the salting and use a regular cut, adding 1/2 teaspoon salt to the dressing.  Crunchy slaw works in lieu of generic lettuce for many uses:  in sandwiches and wraps, on burgers, fajitas and tacos or as a default salad with barbecue and picnic fixings.

cabbage slaw

Broccoli Slaw Variation

Short of time? There are plenty of pre-cut packaged slaws that can be substituted in lieu of the cabbage and carrot; the new broccoli variations are worth checking out.

Cabbage Slaw with Lime Dressing

1 medium head of cabbage, without core, slice into 1/4-1/2″x2″ lengths
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 small carrot, peel and shred
1/4 cup cilantro (optional)
4 green onion, chop
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seed, dice (or a dash cayenne in dressing)
Lime Dressing
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
Black pepper, few grinds
2 tablespoon olive oil, to taste
Garnish: 1 large tomato, seeded and diced, optional

Directions

  1. Remove the core and any thick portions, slice the cabbage into 1/4-1/2″ x 2″ shred, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt to distribute evenly and place in colander or sieve. Let drain 30 minutes or longer.
  2. Combine dressing ingredients and set aside.
  3. Squeeze out any cabbage surface moisture and place in large bowl. Add the carrot, cilantro, green onion and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss evenly to coat.  Adjust seasoning, it should have a bite to it.  Chill and toss again before servings.  Top with fresh tomato if desired and serve.  Serves 5 or more.

A Lovely Bunch of Radishes

At the market recently a spectacular bunch of radishes caught my eye. They looked so freshly picked and perky—as if they had just been uprooted, given a quick rinse, and perched on the shelf.  These weren’t your typical tired little radishes, they were massive, brilliant globes of color ranging from white to deep magenta.

Easter Egg Radishes

Easter Egg Radishes

Their name, Easter Egg radish suits them well. I wondered, were these all show? Sometimes large varieties concentrate all their energy on producing size and can be bland, perhaps pithy. But, the price was right, so I took a gamble.

I couldn’t wait to head home and try one with a dusting of sea salt. Ah, yes, they were crunchy-crisp and mild—I immediately imagined them in a lentil salad made with firm, gorgeous le puys.

Once the lentils were cooked and cooled, about 30 minutes later, I added a drizzle of dressing and a smattering of fresh herbs, a handful of feta cheese, a little zip of preserved lemon (of course, you have some waiting in the fridge from the posting here), and folded in the chilled radishes.Lentil radish salad(870x1024)

Serve the salad at room temperature or lightly chilled. If made ahead and refrigerated, it will hold 2 to 3 days. It’s filling enough for a lazy light meal or in tandem with chilled shrimp or grilled salmon and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Lentil Radish Salad

Ingredients
2 cups cooked le puy lentils
1 cup sliced radishes, or cut into wedges
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 green onions, trimmed and sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs: any, or a combination of thyme, marjoram, parsley
1 tablespoon capers, or preserved lemon rind, well chopped
Dressing
4 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse 1 cup lentils and simmer in 2 cups water for 20 minutes until soft but still firm; drain and cool. Combine the dressing; whisk or shake well, and set it aside.
In a bowl combine all ingredients, add enough dressing to coat well, and toss lightly. Serve at room temperature or chill.  Serves 4 or more.

Get exotic: preserve lemons

Creating my own preserved lemons has been high on my to-do list for some time now.  Although there aren’t many components, it took me a while to get it together:  organic lemons, a fair amount of good quality sea salt, a suitable jar, and time is really all that is required. Lemons and Jar (480x640)

Preserved lemons, used in lieu of fresh lemons, are becoming more mainstream and often available in specialty markets.  In North African and South Asian cuisine, preserved or pickled lemons can age in salt for months to acquire their unique taste. My speedy version will be ready in about a month.  Lemons salted (480x640)After 1 week on the counter and another in the fridge, I couldn’t wait any longer and I tested my first lemon. The rind was soft with a mellow flavor.  Clearly, its growing intensity will echo throughout any dish when cooked.  In this case, the rind of only one lemon wedge was enough for a simple yet superb vinaigrette. Preserved lemons (640x480)

I’ll let the lemons continue to ripen for a couple more weeks and begin to include them in upcoming stews, one pot meals, and plenty of assorted grains and starches.

Preserved Lemons 

Ingredients
7 ripe medium organic lemons, rinse and trim ends
2/3 cup coarse sea salt, approximate
24 ounce canning jar or larger, sterilized
8 juniper berries

Directions

  1. Cut 6 lemons into 8 wedges each, and remove any obvious seeds. Fill each lemon with salt and place in the jar. Continue to press down the lemons and pack tightly into jar, distribute juniper berries evenly. Juice will be squeezed out of the lemons during the process, if it doesn’t cover the lemons, use the juice from the 7th lemon to fill the jar.
  2. Tighten the lid and let stand at room temperature for 7 days.  Each day, shake the jar to distribute the salt among the lemons.  Add more lemon juice if the lemons are not completely covered.
  3. After 7 days, drizzle a little olive oil over the lemons and store in refrigerator for 3 weeks longer, until skin is soft. Test after 2 weeks in refrigerator. Rinse the lemon before using and use the soften rind only.

To Waffle, Part 2: Easy Valentine’s Pizza

Here’s a follow-up to my last post… I actually bought a waffle iron.

I couldn’t shake the need to further explore the iron’s potential beyond making a waffle. My Black and Decker 3-in-1 has the benefit of non-stick reversible grids which switch from waffle to grill or press―even more applications (or justification).

What I discovered is that it works really well for pizza:  the little dimples in the crust create tiny crevices for pools of flavor to collect.Pizza Antipasto

I prefer baking off pizza dough in advance so that it is simply a matter of adding preferred toppings to the crust and popping it in the oven for a quick final bake.  There is also the benefit of personal sized pizzas, which make it perfect for parties, appetizers, a quick snack, or dinner.

In this case, I made the quick pizza dough I’ve previously mentioned here and let it rise until doubled―it is very malleable and can be rolled as thin as desired.  While the waffle iron preheated, I divided the dough into portions:  for my iron they were each less than 1 cup in size. I let the rounds set about 5 minutes to further relax the dough for an easier roll-out.  This goes so quickly I rolled out and baked one at a time.  Mine were about 6 1/2” in size to completely fit into the grill.

Once the iron was ready, I gave the grids a good spray with non-stick oil and laid the flat dough onto the grids and closed it.  It only took about 5 minutes for the dough to set and take on a slight amount of color; they were then cooled on a wire rack.   I did not need to re-spray my non-stick grids again and continued until all the crusts were pre-baked. I stored the cooled crusts in a loosely wrapped plastic bag until needed.

When ready to eat, I preheated the oven to 425 degrees and pulled out a baking sheet.  By the time the oven was preheated my toppings were prepared.  heart pizzaOne of my favorite combinations includes pesto sauce instead of the usual pizza tomato sauce.  Only a quick light spread across the top is all that is necessary.

I added a handful of each of my usuals:  sliced onion, slices of poblano or other spicy pepper, sliced baby tomatoes, a good handful of grated mozzarella, and a sprinkling of oregano and red pepper flakes.

The prepped pizza goes into the hot oven for a quick bake: about 6 – 7 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Once out of the oven, I finished my pizza with a final topping of antipasto salad:  spinach and arugula, sliced salami, pepperoncini, and black olives, all tossed with a garlicky vinaigrette.

Waffled Pizza

Ingredients
1 recipe pizza dough
Pesto Sauce or Pizza Sauce
Toppings of choice:  for example: sliced onion, spicy pepper, baby tomatoes, mozzarella or other melting cheese
Non-stick spray for waffle iron

Directions

  1. Prepare pizza dough. When doubled in bulk, punch down and cut into approx ¾ cup portions.  Lightly cover, and let rest about 5 minutes to relax dough.
  2. Preheat waffle iron, set to ‘waffles’; it should take 7 to 8 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out one round at a time to fit into the waffle iron, mine were about 6 ½” in diameter.
  3. When pre-heated, spray the grids lightly with non-stick spray and lay the rolled dough onto the hot surface. Close the lid and bake until dough is set and lightly colored but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. When set, remove to a cooling rack and repeat. If making ahead, cool and store light wrapped in plastic bag.
  5. To finish pizzas, preheat oven to 425 degrees, have a baking sheet ready.
  6. Assemble pizzas according to taste. Set on baking sheet and bake for approximately 6 – 7 minutes or until the crust is browned and the surface is bubbly.  Serve hot.  Yield:  6 or more pizzas.