Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hellmann's Recipe Test: Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

This recipe from Hellmann's caught my eye when I was deciding what to do with the herbs leftover from the Green Pea and Fava Bean Salad with Sliced Speck.  I don't cook with sage often, so I was looking for good flavor combinations.  Sage and lemon came up together often.  I was also intrigued because while I've used compound butter in cooking, I've never thought to make "compound mayonnaise."

Here's the recipe I found while Googling:

The original recipe is from the Hellman's website:

I used the following:

1 small free range whole chicken  (1.3 lbs.)
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 c. mayonnaise
3 T chopped parsley
2 tsp. chopped sage
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. thyme leaves
fresh ground black pepper

Prep was really easy.  I preheated the oven to 425 and sprayed a roasting pan with non-stick spray.  I removed the giblet bag from inside the chicken.  I roughly doubled the "compound mayonnaise" mixture so I'd have plenty to slather over the 1.3 lb. free range chicken I purchased at Meijer.  Rather than putting the lemon inside the cavity of the bird per the recipe, I sliced it thinly, used my fingers and a knife to loosen the bird's skin, and put the lemon slices under the skin.  This added more moisture and lemon flavor.

Chicken prepped with the lemon slices.

After sliding the lemons under the skin, I liberally salted the bird and then sprinkled it with fresh cracked black pepper.  What seems like too much salt is just right for getting crispy skin.  I mixed the herbs, garlic, mayo, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  I slathered the chicken with the mayo and tossed the two uneven ends of the lemon into the center cavity of the bird.  For a perfect presentation, I could have tied the legs, but I didn't worry with it.  I wasn't going to plate the bird and bring it to the table this time.

I put the bird in the oven at 425, but did not turn the temperature down after 10 minutes as the recipe suggests.  I find that cooking chicken at a higher temperature yields crispier skin.  For me, the crispy skin is key to a delicious roasted chicken.

While I waited, I sauteed the giblets in a tablespoon of butter and had a tasty snack.

At 40 minutes, I checked the bird at the thigh and it bled when I cut into it.  The surrounding meat was visibly pink.  Since the skin had a nice, crispy look, I tented the pan with foil for the last 25-30 minutes so the bird wouldn't burn.  I checked the bird again at about 1 hour and 10 minutes, and it was done.

I let the bird rest while finishing mashed potatoes.  I served an airline piece to my husband (breast and wing) and ate a leg and thigh.  The chicken was deliciously crispy on the outside, but tender and juicy inside.  The lemon flavor was very present...something you don't always get when cooking with a squeeze of lemon juice.  The slices against the meat allowed the flavor to infuse more deeply.

Chicken, fresh out of the oven.

A closer look at the crispy skin and lemons peeking out from underneath.

This recipe is a keeper--it's easy and flavorful, and the whole bird makes a pretty presentation with the golden skin and lemon rounds peeking out.  Just be mindful of the cooking time.  The original recipe calls for a 4-5 lb. bird, check for doneness at 50 minutes.  There's absolutely no way that a 4-5 lb. bird can cook in an hour.  I worry that an inexperienced home cook will read the recipe and think that they can have this on the table in an hour.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Restaurant Review: Nothing Glowing at Ember Urban Eatery

There’s a moral of this story…it’s to trust your instinct.  And to never tolerate being served an $85.00 dinner on plastic ware.  But anyway, on with the review…

Recently, it was my husband’s fantasy football draft.  We were looking for a casual place to grab a bite to eat and use free wireless for the draft.  We immediately thought of Ember, a little restaurant in our neighborhood.  According to Yelp, there’s free wireless.  The menu looked completely appropriate for bringing a laptop to dinner—wings, sandwiches, salads, beer.  There was even a patio.  It was the makings of an enjoyable, laid back night.

When we arrived, we were promptly seated on the busy patio.  Busy is a good sign, right?  But I was instantly confused.  The menu was just one page of prix fixe meals as part of Devour Downtown—not at all like the $8.75 barbecue pork sandwich I’d already eyed up online, or the $10.50 smoked in house wings that received a few nods on Yelp.  Instead, we were looking at $30 per person for a half portion of an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert.  When you go to Recess, you anticipate multiple courses selected for you.  You don’t expect that at your neighborhood casual eatery.  I asked the server for the regular menu and she said it wasn't offered during Devour Downtown.  Immediately, I was uncomfortable.  After all, I wanted a sandwich.  But the draft was starting in minutes so we needed wireless, we were hungry, and we wanted to support a local spot.  We stayed.  But instinct should’ve taken over to leave.

Some background…Devour Downtown happens twice a year in Indianapolis.  Restaurants entice new diners with special menus and discounts.  For example, St. Elmo’s offers a three-course menu for either $30 or $40, depending on entrée selections, and it includes choices like their signature shrimp, filet mignon, and crème brulee.  If you don’t want to eat off the Devour menu, every restaurant I’ve been to in Indy still offers the regular menu.  The point of Devour Downtown is usually to save money while trying something new.  Instead, this neighborhood spot’s menu had truly been devoured by trying to go all fancy pants and pricey.

The appetizer selections ranged from four wings to a salad.  We both chose the wings.  Outside, they had great color and inside they were tender and moist.  The doneness was spot on, but the seasoning was weak.  They didn’t have that deep smoky flavor or a smoke ring.  They needed to be spun in a dry rub or sauce to have any kind of flavor.  The peppercorn ranch they were served with was heavy handed on the peppercorns—it had so much black pepper it was gritty.  My husband liked the dressing, I would have preferred plain ranch. 

Wings and wireless at Ember.  The wrought iron table was nice and sturdy.  The plastic chairs were not.  Not all tables have metal chairs, some have cheap plastic chairs.  The wings had a nice exterior, but no telltale pink ring of authentic smoking process or smoky flavor.  The ranch is acceptable if you really like black pepper.

Our entrees came—we both ordered ribeye steaks.  Mine was far from medium rare, but it wasn’t worth sending back at that point, so I didn’t have a new steak fired.  Nothing special, just a ribeye on a plate.  It could’ve used some seasoned crust, searing on a grill, or something distinctive.  The broccolini was acceptable—a little oily—but plain broccolini.  These two offerings were pretty much what my husband is capable of making at home with a skillet.  The standout was a mashed potato puff.  It looked like a hush puppy but was mashed potatoes rolled in breadcrumbs.  There was side of lemon aioli for dipping.  The lemon aioli didn’t entirely make sense (it was fine on the broccolini, fine on the potato) but didn’t really go with anything in particular.  I’m still not sure if it was dipping sauce for the potato puff or meant to be something else.  The potato puff was satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  I probably would’ve been happier if I could’ve had a few of those as an appetizer and then gone home and made myself a sandwich.

Nothing special.  Steak, some broccolini, and the potato puffs.

Evidently, this is what Ember considers "medium rare."  It was tan all the way through when I cut into the steak's thickest part.

The next, and most substantial disappointment, was dessert.  I chose the amaretto cheesecake.  A small wedge came, served on a tiny plastic plate.  Plastic ware.  Not even the thick, sturdy Chinet kind.  It was heavy and gummy.  My husband chose something chocolate.  It was the tiniest 2x2 inch square of dessert in history, and was hard because part of it was frozen.  It was also on a flimsy black plastic plate.

Dessert--I hope you like plastic ware.  Unremarkable cheesecake and brick hard, mini-square of partially frozen chocolate "something" bar.  Really disappointing.  This was the nail in the coffin for me being able to give this neighborhood spot any love in the future.

So there we were, we’d drafted a decent (but not as fantastic as last year) fantasy football team, but without purchasing a single drink, racked up an $85.00 dinner at a neighborhood sandwich spot.  And eaten off plastic ware.  The pain of the realization that we could’ve gone to St. Elmo and had their Devour Downtown menu, which I guarantee would’ve been executed spot on and not include plastic ware, hurt.  I’ve never spent $85.00 on dinner and it included plastic ware.  Heck, I threw a birthday party out on the horse farm recently and paid $.42 per plate to rent china because people enjoy eating food off real plates.

I really wanted to like Ember—it’s local and the server was pleasant.  I could walk there from home.  But I just can’t.  A wings, sandwiches, and salad joint should KISS: keep it simple, stupid.  I’d rather eat a well-executed sandwich seven out of seven days a week (and twice on Sunday!) than something trying to be fancy, but just flat and overpriced.  Not to mention, they missed the point of Devour Downtown.  The Devour Downtown menus are an additional option at other restaurants, not the only option.  Even when Devour Downtown is over, I doubt I’ll return.  Even if I wanted to go back for the pork barbecue sandwich I set out for, there’s something inherently tacky about a place that uses plastic ware for a prix fixe dinner and serves dessert that’s partially frozen.  I simply can't support that.

Ember Urban Eatery on Urbanspoon

Food and Wine Magazine Recipe Test: Green Pea and Fava Bean Salad with Sliced Speck

I'm still working my way through the August 2014 issue of Food and Wine magazine. The next recipe I'm testing captured my attention because it had a huge photo that looked really fresh and bright. I was a little leery of a salad that doesn't have any lettuce or seems like a lot of strong flavors and no where for my palate to rest. Nevertheless, I was ready to try this recipe. It wasn't a slam dunk like the Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit-and-Green-Tomato Salsa. This salad was an interesting mix of flavors that made sense together, but I'd tweak slightly next time.

The recipe calls for:

3 cups shelled fresh English peas (about 3/4 pound)
4 pounds fava beans, shelled (4 cups)
1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
1/3 cup snipped dill sprigs
1/3 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup snipped chives
1/3 cup small basil leaves or torn basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
20 thin slices speck (1/2 pound)
4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (1 cup)

For how to prepare, check out the original recipe from Food and Wine magazine here:

Like usual, I had to make a few substitutions based on what was available. I couldn't find fava beans and speck at the Broad Ripple Fresh Market, so I substituted white beans and serrano ham. I prepared the recipe as instructed with one exception--I didn't measure the ricotta cheese. I just liberally dolloped it on the plate to make sure my husband would eat it. "Salad" to him means meat, cheese, and ranch with a side of lettuce. I wanted to make sure there was something that he'd like to bait him!

The finished salad with the salad pictured in Food and Wine.

I took a bite, and the taste was really fresh and bright. The salty of the ham worked with the sweet of the peas and the boldness of all the herbs/aromatics. Occasionally, I'd get a bite that was heavy on the parsley. These bites were bitter and unpleasant. To make this recipe really tops, I'd reduce the amount of parsley to just a dusting of chiffonade and add a handful of arugula. With all the distinct flavors like basil, sage, and chives, it would be nice to have a little break from time to time.

I enjoyed this recipe. I'd make it again with the reduction in parsley and perhaps a handful of arugula. This probably isn't one to experiment with the more picky eaters in your circle. The bold flavors may come across as disharmony. Not bad, but not one that drew highest accolades.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Food and Wine Magazine Recipe Test: Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit-and-Green-Tomato Salsa

I'm still enjoying the Food and Wine magazine subscription my husband gifted to me.  Although I'm starting to think it wasn't a gift for me, it was a gift for him.  I've been working my way through the recipes, and he gets to be the taste tester.  Definitely a gift for him.

Next in the queue, a recipe that caught my eye because it's by Stephanie Izard.  Izard is the chef of Girl and the Goat, where I dined last summer on a trip to Chicago with friends.  My favorite girlfriend's husband had a job interview, so I tagged along for a day of shopping and gastronomy.  Dinner at Girl and the Goat was great, minus having to take her husband outside and babysit him on the sidewalk after he drank too much.  Our group of friends took turns sitting with him so no one would have to miss the meal.  It ended up being funny fodder for a wedding toast!  Anyway, it was the first time I ate goat or pig face.  I can't wait to go back.  By the way, if you're from the Girl and the Goat and reading this, my friend is still apologetic about the glass he broke, and the nap he took at the table until we shepherded him to the sidewalk so you wouldn't kick us out.  A bad job interview and double-fisting Manhattans will do that, I guess.  His loss since he's the first of us to go foodie, and he missed the meal!

Back to Stephanie Izard.  I have endless respect for women who brave traditionally men's jobs, and a woman like Stephanie who schooled the boys on Top Chef.  Sometimes I feel the challenge of being an attorney working in the tech sector--it's not always easy making your way in the boys' club.  Good for Stephanie for being a strong woman and a Midwestern culinary superstar.

Izard's recipe in the August 2014 recipe is for Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit-and-Green-Tomato Salsa.

Here's the link to the recipe:

The recipe calls for:

2 lbs. skirt steak
olive oil
red wine vinegar
soy sauce
sambal oelek
green tomato
sweet cherries
nicoise olives
salt and pepper

Like the Piment d'Espelette of a few entries ago, I had to read up on some of these ingredients.  Sambal oelek is a staple of Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesian cooking.  It's chili pepper paste without seasonings like garlic.  Read more here.  Sorrel is a leafy herb used in cooking around the world.  It is rich in Vitamin C and has an acidic, even bitter taste due to the oxalic acid content.  According to Gourmet Sleuth, some spinach or arugula and lemon juice are an adequate substitute.

I went to three grocery stores and couldn't find the sambal oelek or sorrel, so I substituted Dynasty brand Thai Chili Garlic Paste for the sambal oelek, and arugula and lemon juice for the sorrel.  Since I love arugula, I used this is an opportunity to turn the salsa into more of a salad.  I used a handful instead of two tablespoons.  This gave the meal more bulk without having to prep a separate side dish.

I could not find sambal oelek at Kroger or Marsh, so I substituted Dynasty brand Thai Chili Garlic Paste.

Next up, I had to substitute for the cherries.  Cherries are in season in May, June, and July.  I went to two Marsh stores, one Fresh Market, and one Kroger hoping they had some anyway.  No dice.  I called Trader Joe's and Fresh Thyme, they said they didn't have any.  I even enlisted the help of the local police department to see if an officer friend had seen cherries anywhere!  I ended up buying a can of cherries in water.  I opened the can, and they were really mushy, so they couldn't work as a substitute.  They were not firm enough to cut.  I ended up substituting black grapes.

Of note, I also used some manzanilla olives I already had.  These olives are firmer and milder than nicoise olives, but still brought a briny flavor.  I'm not an olive snob.  I love olives in all forms.

Unfortunately, by the time I had made all these substitutions, this preparation was more "inspired by" Izard's recipe than an actual test of it.

I started this recipe on Sunday afternoon.  I chopped all the ingredients and stored them separately in cups since I knew I'd be home late on Monday (and Dallas would be on, so I didn't want to spend a long time prepping!)  It took between 20 and 30 minutes to wash and chop all the ingredients, then mix the vinaigrette.  I tasted the vinaigrette to see if the garlic would be noticeable--the sambal oelek would not have added garlic to the mix.  I didn't notice the flavor of the garlic, but the vinaigrette was heavy on the soy sauce flavor.  This ended up working out well--the salsa needed the salt.  This is why Stephanie Izard is a chef and I'm a wannabe food blogger.

Since everything was chopped and the green onions had already been sauteed and cooled, all I had to do was hit the steak with a little salt and pepper.  While it cooked, I mixed the vinaigrette and all the prepped ingredients.  As mentioned above, instead of two tablespoons of sorrel/arugula, I used a handful to make more of a salad.

The fresh ingredients about to be combined to top the steak.  In this moment, as I looked at the black grapes, plums, basil, green tomato, and a soy and pepper paste vinaigrette, I thought to myself that there was no way this would work together!

The steak was to medium-rare in about six minutes.  I let it rest to get the thickest parts a little more done--one placed looked a little raw, which unfortunately caused the ends to go to medium.  Select a piece of steak that it as uniform in thickness as possible to prevent this from happening.

The final product.

A closer look.

Admittedly, I was nervous when I presented the plate to my husband.  I thought this was going to taste bizarre.  Instead, it was surprisingly fantastic!  The basil and the sweet notes from the grapes and plums really harmonized with the cilantro and spicy zing of the vinaigrette.  This was so fresh and unlike anything else I'd tasted.  The basil was the superstar ingredient for me since it enlivened the sweet plum and grape elements while melding with the spicy pepper for something exotic.  I think he loves this dish more than he loves me.  He was that impressed.

I realize that Izard's recipe would taste differently because of all the substitutions I made due to product availability, and wanting to use up manzanilla olives I already had.  Nevertheless, I'd make this again just how I did it this time because it was so tasty.  This was by far the best recipe I've tested from Bon Appetit and Food and Wine.  It's also a steak recipe that won't leave you feeling weighed down.  Instead, you'll feel revitalized by all the fresh ingredients.

You. Must. Make. This.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bon Appetit Recipe Test: Chicken, Asparagus, and Wild Mushroom Stir Fry

In the latest edition of recipe tire kicking, here's another from Bon Appetit's "27 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Recipes That Are NOT Boring."

The original recipe can be found here:

This one is great--the only clean up is the sautee pan, a plate, and a few utensils--and it goes from ingredients to table in less than 30 minutes.  It's a fantastic weeknight meal full of fresh veggies, and when made without the heavy cream, it's light.

The main change I made to this recipe was substituting chicken broth for the heavy cream.  I'm lactose intolerant and I don't carry my Lactaid around often.  I'm looking for ways to keep my cooking fresh and light.  Heavy cream doesn't fit the bill, especially when it's 90 degrees outside.  I also didn't have Piment d'Espelette.  Frankly, I had to Google what it is--a smoky, mild pepper grown in southwest France.  I learned this from The Perfect Pantry--you can check it out here.  To substitute, I mixed some paprika and cayenne pepper from my spice rack.

You'll need:
olive oil
1lb. boneless chicken breast
1 lb. thin asparagus
1 package shiitake mushrooms (2 if you like mushrooms!)
minced garlic
shallot or onion
white wine
chicken broth
Piment d'Espelette (or cayenne pepper and paprika)
salt and pepper
optional--a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness

Here's how I made the magic happen:

Wash all produce.  Trim ends from asparagus.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in large sautee pan.  Once pan is hot, add asparagus, salt, and pepper.  Sautee for one minute, then add a splash of water and put lid on sautee pan, allow to cook 3-4 more minutes.  I like my asparagus crisp, so I cooked it a total of four minutes.  Remove asparagus.  Leave the remaining liquid in pan.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil, add the shiitake mushrooms and a pinch of salt.  Sautee 8 minutes, remove and add to plate of asparagus.

Add last tablespoon of olive oil, sautee a tablespoon of minced garlic and, either 1/3 cup minced shallot or I added what I had on hand--1/2 cup of minced red onion for two minutes.  Then add the chicken, Piment d'Espelette (or the cayenne and paprika).  Instead of measuring the cayenne and paprika, I just added a pinch of cayenne and dusted the contents of the pan with the paprika.  After chicken was beginning to turn white on outside (about 5 minutes), I added 1/3 cup white wine and half a can of chicken broth.  In the Bon Appetit recipe, this would've been when the heavy cream was added.

Starting to cook the chicken while the sauteed asparagus and shiitake mushrooms wait to return to the pan.

Bring contents to a boil.  At this time, I removed the chicken so it wouldn't get overcooked, then let the contents boil in the pan until they reduced to a sauce that would coat the back of a spoon.  Taste sauce, adjust salt and pepper as needed.  I also added a little more cayenne pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a hint of brightness.

The broth-based sauce reduced enough to coat a spoon.  The paprika darkened the color--it isn't burnt.

Turn off stove, add the asparagus, chicken, and mushrooms back to pan to coat in the sauce, then serve.

The well-liked final product.

My husband ate his plate of food before I was halfway done, then returned to the kitchen and ate the contents of the container I prepared for him to take as lunch the next day.  Curiously, he asked what the seasoning was, which makes me think that if I'd used real Piment d'Espelette, it may have been even more intriguing.  I can't say I used the paprika in my pantry often--mainly just for deviled eggs!

The only change we would make next time is to toss in two containers of shiitake mushrooms.  We both enjoy mushrooms, and the container we used was only 3.5 or 4 ounces worth.  If you're going to be missing a starchy element, some grilled or crusty bread will make this dish more satisfying.  I didn't miss the starch--I actually enjoyed having something light.

As an aside, this recipe seems like it would be more aptly named "Chicken, Asparagus, and Wild Mushroom Sautee."  Nevertheless, this recipe (with the broth substituted for cream) was another hit at my house.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Talent on Display at Restaurant Tallent

Once per year, my husband and I gather up friends and make a pilgrimage down to what he believes is the promised land...Bloomington, Indiana. Evidently his most formative and positive memories were formed at Indiana University. So I oblige and try not to hashtag anything #bbn for a few days straight. The trips have varied from tailgating food to Little Zagreb's. This year, we're getting older, wiser, and perhaps more demanding in what we seek out for dinner. We've steadily risen from pizza to elevated "Indiana cuisine." Restaurant Tallent prides itself on offering "what is available in the Southern Indiana region during that season."

Our first trip to Restaurant Tallent didn't disappoint. I only wish I'd taken more photos to share, but since we were in the company of friends in a cozy, dark space, I didn't want to be the tourist diner. There were a few other tables dining on Friday night. The restaurant was somewhere near half full. Half our dinner party had already arrived, so we joined them and promptly ordered wine. I wish I could remember what I ordered since I enjoyed it. I was debating between these three selections from the moderately sized (about nine whites to choose from by the glass) but thoughtfully composed wine list:

Santa Magdalena Pinot Grigio 2009 (Alto Aldige, Italy) $32/ $8.25
Ponzi Pinot Gris 2013 (Willamette Valley, Oregon) $36/ $9.25
Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2013 (South Africa) $36/ $9.25

Mostly, I was happy to see selections that aren't what everyone is overplayed Santa Margherita and Menage a Trois.   Someone had clearly curated the wine offerings lovingly, not based on what their distributor told them sells big.  This little detail set a distinctive tone for me--it represented the thought the owners put into making their restaurant special.

The amuse bouche arrived--tiny specks of fried okra that looked like black eyed peas. They were crunchy and fun.  Perhaps a little awkward to share among a table since it's like putting your fingers in communal bar nuts, but since we were all good friends, it wasn't too weird.  Over a work dinner, those probably wouldn't have been eaten.

We accepted our server's offer to bring bread given that we anticipated that, like any good trip to Bloomington, the night would end with at least one AMF or Hairy Bear. The butter was one of the many memorable parts of the meal. It was satisfyingly salty and at room temperature so it was easy to spread. It drives me crazy when restaurants bring you a frozen brick of butter.

I skipped the appetizer since I'd already indulged in two pre-dinner cocktails at the hotel. I'd checked the menu ahead of time, and the menu online didn't exactly match the selections at the restaurant. My husband chose the heirloom tomato soup and grilled cheese, which are not listed online. The soup was stellar...the most delightful rendition of tomato soup I've ever tasted. The color represented the heirloom tomatoes uniquely--it was red with a tie-dye purple cast. The soup was not the creamy bisque-like presentation you're used to, but instead, more gazpacho-like with the tomato's texture evident and lots of bright acidity. The sandwich was buttery and melty. If I didn't have a full-time job and they served lunch, I'd have to resist the urge to make a midday drive to Bloomington and eat this for lunch. Every day.

Our dinner companions ordered the heirloom tomato soup and the fish crudo as appetizers. The fish crudo was artfully prepared with tiny pearls of melon to resemble caviar.

I selected the scallops as my entree. Again, the preparation offered Friday was not identical to the online menu but it was similar. The three scallops were accompanied by fried green tomato and succotash. Each scallop was pleasantly browned on the outside and buttery inside. The succotash was heavy on the sweet corn, but that was fine by me. Nothing says summer like sweet corn. The wafer of fried green tomato on top was crispy without the grittiness of some fried green tomato preparations. For a particularly hungry adult or a man, the entree may have been a bit small, but it was perfectly sized for my appetite and recent attempts at having more restraint in portion size.

Scallops with succotash and fried green tomato at Restaurant Tallent.

My husband ordered the fried chicken.  It was not traditional buttermilk chicken, as described on the online menu.  Instead, it was a hot Asian interpretation.  It was presented like wings--very small pieces spread across the plate.  The heat wasn't overpowering.  He ended up regretting ordering something fried since he felt uncomfortably full afterwards--with a heavy belly not conducive for drinking like he was still in college.  This one might be a better choice for cold weather or a night when you can go home and curl up with a glass of port and fall asleep.  I think he had scallop envy.  Hot weather plus fried chicken equals sleepy time.

Overall, I could deal with watching IU football more often if each trip involved a visit to Restaurant Tallent.  Although I think eating there just made it impossible to go back to Bloomington and be satisfied eating pizza somewhere like Nick's.  And get the heirloom tomato soup if you go.  I'm hoping I'll be back again soon.

Restaurant Tallent on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bon Appetit Recipe Test: Thai Chicken Soup

I'm kicking the tires on another recipe for you today.  I found this one in a Bon Appetit magazine Tweet--27 ways to make boneless chicken not boring.  This recipe is a hit!

My husband doesn't do ethnic food.  He has the stomach of a child sometimes--after a trip to an Indian restaurant, he ate something spicy and laid on the sofa for hours moaning and rubbing his tummy.  When I'm craving Vietnamese or Thai food, I call up girlfriends and have a girls' night out.  I didn't tell him this was Thai-inspired until afterwards.  He ate it up, proclaimed how fantastic the broth was, and didn't have a stomachache at all.  Then I told him it was Thai and he looked surprised.

By the way, I fully believe in "Jewish Penicillin"--chicken noodle soup--when you're feeling unwell.  This soup might replace the simple chicken noodle or matzo ball soup though.  It's that good.

I followed the original recipe closely, but not exactly.  The original recipe can be found here:

My changes were mostly out of convenience and to cut down on miscellaneous leftover produce in my fridge.  For example, instead of measuring out the mushrooms or sugar snap peas, I tossed in a whole package.  The more veggies, the merrier, right?

Here's my rendition:

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 chive pieces (five bulbs, each with about four stalks of green onion on it)
4 teaspoons minced garlic
4 in. piece of fresh ginger (consider using more if you like more zing)
handful of baby carrots
1 jalapeno (consider using two if you like heat)
1 package of sliced white mushrooms (about 8 oz.)
1 package of organic, boneless chicken tenderloins (there were no 1 lb. packages so I used 1.3 lbs.)
1 can coconut milk (this can was 13.5 oz.)
1 quart organic chicken broth
1 package of sugar snap peas (I think it was about 8 oz.)
Fish sauce to taste (I used about 2-3 tablespoons)
2-3 oz. lime juice
2 handfuls of cilantro

Outside of all the washing and chopping, this is very easy to make and has minimal clean up.

Wash all produce.

Put large soup pot on stove on medium heat.  Add the oil and the garlic.  As garlic becomes golden, chop up the scallions and carrots, add to pot.  I used one handful of baby carrots, next time, I'll consider using two since I really like carrots.

Use carrot peeler to scrape the skin off the ginger, then grate into the pot.  I couldn't find out grater, so I was using a serrated knife.  My patience wore off at four inches of the ginger.  I wish I'd used more, so if you like zing, keep grating away.  The original Bon Appetit recipe calls for 11 inches.

Next, I added the a tablespoon of fish sauce, chicken broth, and coconut milk, then all the chicken tenderloins.  Just toss the chicken pieces into the soup pot whole.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer, and set timer for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is simmering, slice the jalapeno thinly.  I de-seeded it to keep the spicy level lower for my husband, but next time, I'll use two jalapenos.  Chop the sugar snap peas into small pieces--they'll look like over-sized rings of green onion.  I always chop mine across or slightly diagonally to make sure I cut across where strings could be.  I tend to find strings, even if the bag says the peas are string-less.

At the 20 minute mark, remove the chicken tenderloins and place on large plate.  Add the pea and jalapeno to the soup pot.  Using a fork and knife (it's hot!), pull the chicken into pieces that will fit on a spoon.  The chicken was really tender and came apart very easily.  Return the pulled chicken to the pot.  Add 2-3oz. of lime juice (I used half of a little green plastic reconstituted lime juice container).  Stir and taste.  At this point, I wanted more salt.  Instead of adding salt, I added another tablespoon or two of fish sauce to get that salty/umami taste I needed.

Taste it to check for the right balance.  Need saltiness or umami?  Add fish sauce.  Need zing?  Add lime juice and or grated ginger.

Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems.  Now you're ready to serve.

For best presentation, use a slotted spoon to scoop up the right balance of chicken and veggies.  Then ladle the broth around the chicken and veggies so you can see them peaking through the surface.  Top with fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

The delicious finished product--Tom Kha Gai inspired Thai Chicken Soup.

Don't add the rest of the fresh cilantro to the leftovers.  It will wilt when sitting in the liquid then during reheating.  Top each reheated bowl with fresh cilantro.