Category: Chicken

Count Stroganoff’s Chicken

I love beef stroganoff. I loved it 20 years ago made with a can of mushroom soup, I loved it a couple years ago when I started making a “deconstructed” version with beautiful rare steak set upon a golden mushrooms and cream, and I loved it last night when I decided to try it with tender chicken thighs and a deeply flavoured mushroom sauce amped up with marsala, Dijon mustard, and tomato paste.

In doing my research for this recipe I found out that Stroganoff was a real guy! A Russian noble, Count Stroganoff was born into a wealthy family in the late 1700’s and was a General in the Napoleonic Wars. The original recipe was named after him by a French cook who, trying to combine his traditional cooking with a taste of Stroganoff’s homeland, invented the dish using French mustard to season beef and adding a dollop of Russian sour cream. Voila! (or вуаля! in Russian).

And, I mean, what doesn’t taste better with a bit of sour cream?!?! Can you imagine eating a perogie without it? Or borscht? (Wow, it really is an Eastern European thing, isn’t it?!) I even add it to my favourite savoury pie crust here!

The best tip I can offer, don’t rush frying the chicken or the mushrooms. Make sure the chicken has a golden crust on both sides and the mushrooms have a nice sear. I did my mushrooms in two batches and each batch took 7-8 minutes. Crowding the mushrooms in the pan just steams them and the golden browning on the mushrooms really adds to the flavour of the dish.

Prijatnogo appetita!

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each cut into 2-3 large chunks

1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used brown)

1/2 large onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 TBS flour

1/4 cup marsala or dry vermouth (or white wine, or extra chicken stock)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp worcestershire
1/2 tsp mild paprika
1 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp sea salt) and pepper to taste
couple sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)

1/2 cup sour cream
fresh chopped parsley or other fresh herb for garnish, I used basil because it’s what I had (optional)

Mix chicken stock with mustard, worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat large saute pan with a glug of oil or some sort of fat (I used schmaltz) over medium high. Salt and pepper chicken thighs and fry 4-5 minutes per side until they have a nice golden brown crust. Don’t worry if they are not cooked through, they will cook more later. Remove to side plate.

Add another glug of oil if necessary and fry mushrooms until they lose their liquid and turn a lovely golden brown. This will take 7-8 minutes. Remove to the same side plate as the chicken.

Add another glug of oil if necessary and add onions, fry for a couple minutes then add garlic (garlic tends to burn so I give the onions a head start). Fry until just starting to brown. Stir in tomato paste for 1 minute and then sprinkle flour over mixture and stir for another minute.

Deglaze with marsala until the alcohol is almost gone. Then add chicken stock spice mixture and fresh thyme. Tip in the chicken thighs, mushrooms, and any liquid that has collected. Turn heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Taste and re-season. We enjoyed this over pasta but it would be delicious over white or wild rice.

Chicken and Dumplings

Have I complained enough about mentioned the rain? Here on the west coast we usually enjoy mild, albeit somewhat soggy winters but spring arrived a couple weeks ago and along with it, the beautiful clear blue sky, the sun creeping under my skin and making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the flowers bursting forth, the…

ummm, what? That didn’t happen?

That pitter-patter on my roof are not birds dancing in the sun? The sound of gushing water is not my washing machine? (I DID wonder how my clothes made it from the bedroom to the laundry room without me). The wet ground is not because my lovely neighbour watered my yard?

Dammit.

Ok. Well, the only way I can see to combat a late spring is to revel in the last few weeks of eating comfort foods. If I’m not warm on the outside I can be warm on the inside.

This is one of my faves and because I know much of the country is still experiencing some winter it may become a new favourite of yours as well. It is is based on my chicken pot pie but I got lazy and decided that making the pastry was waaaay too much work so I opted for dumplings. Soft, fluffy pillows of goodness.

I think we should eat this every day until the REAL spring arrives and I think we should start now!

The stew is on the thinner side (but not watery) which I like with the dumplings. The flavours and method are much like the filling for my chicken pot pie, the perfect thing to let bubble and brew on a chilly afternoon. The dumpling recipe is compliments of Joy the Baker, who uses them in her chicken soup recipe here.

Go forth and… ummmm… stay dry (insert rolling eyes here).

Stew:

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 – 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 8 pieces)
couple glugs of vegetable oil

12 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 small or 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch slices
1 large onion, diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small

1/4 cup sherry (optional)
3 cups chicken broth (you know I prefer homemade but whatever you have will be enhanced by simmering the chicken in it)
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
1 bay leaf
couple sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

3 TBS of fat (schmaltz from your fried chicken, or butter at room temperature)
4 TBS all-purpose flour (use 6 TBS if you like a thicker, more gravy-like consistency)

2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp anchovy paste or white miso
1 cup frozen green peas
1 or 2 carrots, diced small
couple shakes of hot pepper flakes, to taste

Dumplings:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 TBS butter, cold
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup buttermilk, cold

To make the stew:
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a glug of oil over medium-high heat in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large heavy pot. Brown chicken thighs skin-side down until golden, flip and brown the other side. You will want to do this in two batches because crowding the chicken will steam it rather than fry it. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Pour off most of the fat (reserving it to use later in this recipe) leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms and fry until they release their liquid, it evaporates and they start to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside.

Use some of the fat you poured off the chicken or heat another glug of oil in the same pot. Add onions, leeks and celery, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 7 minutes. If using, pour in the sherry and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until most of the sherry has cooked off and then add chicken broth, milk, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Nestle the browned chicken and any accumulated juices into the pot. Cover and GENTLY simmer 30 minutes, after which the chicken should be fully cooked and tender.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves and sprigs from the thyme if you used fresh. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon and set aside.

In a small bowl, using a fork, mash 3 TBS of the fat from frying the chicken and what you skimmed from the stew (replace any or all of it with butter if you prefer) with the flour into a paste. Ladle some of the warm liquid over it, and stir until smooth. Add a second ladle and stir again. Return this flour mixture to the larger pot, stir to combine. Add the diced carrots, soy sauce, anchovy or miso paste, and hot pepper flakes. Shred or dice the chicken, discarding the bones and skin and return the meat to the pot along with the reserved mushrooms. Bring back to a simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To make the dumplings:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, thyme, and pepper. Add the butter and use your fingers or a pastry cutter, break it down into the flour mixture creating small flecks of butter throughout. Add the beaten egg and buttermilk and stir until just combined. Do not to over-stir or the dumplings will be tough.

Bringing it together:
Make sure your stew is at a VERY gentle simmer. Drop generous tablespoon-sized dollops of dumpling dough on top of the stew, about a half inch apart. Cover the stew and continue to let simmer very gently for 10-12 minutes. By that time the dumplings should have risen to double their size and be completely cooked through.

Spoon into bowls and enjoy!

Chicken and Zucchini Meatballs over Butternut Squash “Spaghetti”

Guess what?!?! I have another meatball recipe and this one is healthy healthy! Not just healthy, but healthy (lean chicken and zucchini meatballs), healthy (over BUTTERNUT SQUASH NOODLES!). Seriously, unless you’re going to eat grass for dinner, you’re not going to get much healthier than this. It is ridiculously delicious for an almost “normal” meal. Unlike those “zoodles” that are all over the internet (yes, I’m talking about you, limp and wet zucchini noodles), spiralizing butternut squash (or one of those huge carrots you get in an Asian market) and roasting at a high heat for 7-10 minutes to bring out the sweetness is an almost perfect stand-in for real spaghetti, without the calories and carbs. I dare you to try it! Go ‘head… I DARE you. :)

I’m dissing the wet, limp zucchini noodles but adding grated zucchini into the lean chicken meatballs helps keep them tender and moist and adds an extra helping of invisible vegetables. And spooning them over more vegetables?… pffft, I feel like I should be given a medal.

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“All Day” Pho – The Cold Killer!

I have had the worst cold! And not only is it the worst, it is the looooooongest! Seriously, it’s now been 3 weeks. I’M SO OVER IT… GO AWAY! And in this post-holiday, supposedly “get healthy” month, it’s not helpful that I am one of those weirdos who CANNOT GET ENOUGH TO EAT when I have a cold. I don’t know why that is. I’m like a dog eating grass when it feels nauseated. And those people who whimper “Oh, it’s been 3 days and I haven’t been able to eat a bite of food”… are you forking kidding me?!?! Bring on the roast chicken, pasta loaded with sauce (or not), potato chips and cheese. I’ll eat it all!

So after devouring the contents of my fridge, I suddenly had a craving for a somewhat “clean” meal. Hot and spicy and something that would punch this cold in the nose. Pho. Mmmmmmmmm.

I order pho when I’m out for lunch all the time, but I had never tried making it at home. It seemed like a lot of work for a bowl of soup. The rich luscious broth, all those different spices and herbs. Ugh. But shockingly, it wasn’t that difficult. I have been running on about 5% energy for 3 weeks and I still managed to accomplish the best bowl of soup I’ve slurped in a long time, and so can you.

It’s really not “all day”. It’s about 4 hours in total and much of that is lying about watching Netflix while the broth very gently simmers, extracting all the loveliness from the chicken, vegetables and spices. I have made chicken stock many times using leftover carcasses but I had never used a whole chicken before. I was surprised by the the silky tenderness of the meat after gently braising in liquid for 30 minutes.

I don’t have a stock pot big enough for 4 litres (16 cups) of water plus all the other ingredients so I started by simmering the raw quartered chicken, veggies and spices in 12 cups of water. After 30 minutes I removed the now cooked chicken pieces and let cool about 10 minutes, then pulled off the meat. At this point I was able to add a second pre-cooked chicken carcass from the previous night along with the bones, fat and skin from the chicken pieces I just cleaned, plus another 2 cups of water and let simmer for another hour. After which I was able to add the final 2 cups of water (omit the final 2 cups of water if you don’t have a second leftover chicken carcass) and let simmer for the last hour. Finally, strain the broth into a large pot and stir in the fish sauce. Start with 3 tablespoons and add in up to 3 more tablespoons, adjusting for taste as you go. The resulting broth is sublime.

I ended up with about 14 cups of broth (from the original 16 cups of water plus whatever juices came from the chicken). You can skim some of the fat if you want but the point of this broth is its richness so I skimmed only half the fat, leaving the rest in the broth. Kitchen math: Fat = flavour.

This recipe is very loosely based on the many internet versions of Pho Ga by Charles Phan, author of Vietnamese Home Cooking and owner of The Slanted Door restaurants in San Francisco. Some versions suggest you make your own crispy fried shallots for one of the toppings which would be delicious, but I find the fried shallots or onions you can buy at your local grocery store work very well in a pinch, without the deep fry smell lingering in your home for the next 2 days. The broth can be made a day or two ahead of time and when you’re ready, reheat your broth, put some noodles and chicken in the bottom of your bowl, and ladle over the hot broth. I like to add a dollop of Asian chili-garlic sauce and hoisin sauce and mix in a bit. Then top with the green onion, bean sprouts, herbs, shallots, squeeze over some fresh lime and throw on some crispy fried shallots if you wish (I forgot to do this for the picture!).

Broth
2 unpeeled yellow onions, quartered
Three 1/2-inch-thick slices of unpeeled fresh ginger
4 litres (16 cups) cold water (14 cups if you don’t have a second leftover chicken carcass)
One fresh 3 1/2-pound chicken, quartered
1 leftover chicken carcass (if you have one)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 star anise
4 green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, smashed to loosen the fibres

To finish:
3-6 TBS Asian fish sauce
dried rice noodles, a linguine shape

Garnishes:
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 pound mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup torn basil leaves, Thai basil if you can find it
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 limes, cut into wedges
Asian chili-garlic sauce
Hoisin sauce
Crispy shallots or onions

Char onions and ginger:
Heat a cast iron or other heavy bottomed frying pan with just a bare film of oil over medium high heat. Add quartered onions and ginger slices and char all all sides until onion begins to soften. This will take about 5-10 minutes. Alternatively you could put them on a baking sheet in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes.

Make the broth:
Fill a large pot with 4 litres (16 cups) of water and bring to boil. Add the roasted onions, ginger, raw chicken and second chicken carcass if you have it, and the rest of the broth spices. Lower heat to a very gentle simmer and cook until the chicken is done, about 30 minutes. If your pot isn’t big enough (as mine wasn’t), start out with as much water as will fit into the pot along with the veggies, spices, and raw chicken. Once the raw chicken is cooked you can add in the spare chicken carcass and more water.

After 30 minutes, remove the now cooked chicken pieces, let cool until you are able to handle to remove the meat. Set the meat aside and add the skin and bones back into the broth (along with extra chicken carcass if you haven’t already added) and very gently simmer for another 2 hours. Once finished, strain the broth into a large pot and stir in the fish sauce, to taste.

Putting it together:
Cook the rice noodles according to the instructions. Shred the chicken into large pieces and gather the rest of your garnishes. Place some noodles and chicken in your bowl, add in the Asian child-garlic sauce and hoisin sauce to taste. Ladle over the hot broth and top with garnishes. Enjoy!

Note: the cool noodles and chicken are re-warmed by the hot broth but if the soup isn’t hot enough for your liking, you can heat up the chicken and noodles in the broth while it’s still on the burner, then divide between individual bowls. But I would only add the chicken and noodles to the amount of broth you are going to eat in one sitting, reserving the rest of the clear broth for another day or the freezer.

Cumin Chicken with Squash, Fennel and Grapes: Another One Pan Miracle

miracle-chicken2-4Remember this from a couple months ago? It was my spatchcock chicken “one pan miracle” dinner and I have another one for you! I followed the latest inspiration recipe pretty closely except I used a whole spatchcock chicken instead of just thighs (I am LOVING the spatchcock chicken) and I added leeks (how many forking leeks did I plant this year?!?!).

The roasted fennel adds a lovely unique flavour and the grapes soften into little pillows of yummy-ness (technical term). If you don’t have leeks I suggest adding wedges of onion or shallot to the veggies to balance the sweetness of the fennel and grapes. Next time I think I will also throw a teaspoon of smoked paprika into the rub to deepen the flavour just a touch.

It’s important to use a pan big enough so the vegetables can be spread out in a single layer to ensure they brown and caramelize rather than just steam. I had more vegetables than I needed so into the fridge they went and the next morning I used the saved chicken bones, the wings and the excess veggies to make a chicken vegetable stock. Shazam! (Sorry, I’ve been watching too many superhero movies…).

1 small 2 1/2-3 1/2 pound chicken, spatchcocked
1 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS ground cumin
1 TBS kosher salt (or 2 tsp table salt)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 acorn or delicata squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1/4″ half moons
1 fennel bulb (about 1/2 pound), cut in half lengthwise, sliced into 1/4″ wedges with core intact
3 or 4 leeks, white and light green part only, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 pound seedless red grapes (a very generous cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
small bunch torn fresh mint leaves

Make your rub by combining the brown sugar, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne.

Just in case you’ve forgotten how to spatchcock, place the chicken breast side down on a work surface. Starting at the thigh end, cut along one side of backbone with kitchen shears. Turn chicken around and cut along other side. Discard backbone or save for stock. Flip the chicken, open it like a book and press firmly on the breastbone to flatten (before flipping, I sometimes help the chicken breast crack by using my knife to make a cut in the thickest part of the bone). Sprinkle both sides with half your rub and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F.

miracle-chicken2-1

Toss vegetables with olive oil and the other half of the rub and place on a large rimmed baking sheet, arranging in a single layer. Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the veggies and fruit and roast for 20 minutes. At this point I like to gently lift the chicken with some tongs and give the vegetables a stir to ensure they are all getting nicely browned. Return the pan to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature should be 165F).

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Remove chicken from oven and let rest 5-10 minutes. I like to keep the veggies warm during the resting period by turning off but leaving them in the oven. Cut up the chicken and serve family style or in individual bowls garnished with torn mint. I served this with wild rice and it was delicious.

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Chicken and White Beans: A One Pan Miracle

chicken white bean6We were at a friend’s place for dinner last year where another guest regaled us with the story of a previous thanksgiving fiasco when he had been put in charge of roasting the turkey on the BBQ but instead of watching the bird, decided to work out instead. When he returned the turkey was burnt to a crisp and it was about 2 hours before their guests arrived. Wife was still at work and would not be amused. He ran out to the local grocer and paid waaaaay too much money for another turkey and long story short, they didn’t eat until midnight. I wanted to ask why he didn’t spatchcock the bird but that wasn’t the point… it was a funny story.

But, seriously, why didn’t he spatchcock the bird? I cooked a 12 pound turkey for thanksgiving last year in 90 minutes. It’s not magic!

Spatchcocking (or butterflying) is a technique used most often for grilling but it’s ideal for roasting as well. A whole chicken or turkey in its natural form takes a long time to cook because the inside must reach a certain temperature to safely eat. The problem with this is the exterior (and especially the breast) often becomes overdone and dry before the inside is cooked. Opening it up and laying it flat by removing the backbone positions the breast at the centre of the meat which protects it while the darker meat takes most of the heat. It doesn’t make for a very amusing story, but it produces a heck of a tasty bird!

chicken white bean1

The balance of this dish is really just another attempt by me to use up some of my garden vegetables along with another healthy filler… beans. My first thought was to use chickpeas which I think would be a great substitute, but I usually cook my chickpeas from dried (I think they taste better) so I didn’t have any canned in the pantry. I did however have some canned white beans. And, as always, use whatever vegetables are handy. Squash would be great, sweet potatoes, peppers, zucchini, brussels sprouts in the winter. You could substitute rosemary or sage for the thyme. It’s very adaptable. If you’re not using harissa as I did (which has a nice spicy kick), sprinkle over a few red pepper flakes as well.

The miracle part of this recipe is laying the chicken over the vegetables to cook which bathes everything in those rich drippings and multiplies the flavour of this meal by, oh… I don’t know… a thousand?!!! And having only one dish to wash after making dinner?!?! It’s a festivus miracle times two. :)

Chicken:
1 small 2 1/2-3 1/2 pound chicken
1 tsp harissa spice mix
1 tsp za’atar
1 tsp salt
(Or substitute 1 TBS of your favourite rub for the 3 spices above. You could use organo for Greek flavour or a rub with smoked paprika and cumin for southwestern BBQ. Just make sure 1/3rd of your rub is salt.)

Veggies:
olive oil
a few cups sliced mixed veggies (I used carrot, baby golden beets, a leek, shallot, a few little potatoes and the greens from my beets)
few sprigs of thyme
1 pint small tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 can cannellini (white) beans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken stock)
salt and pepper

Garnish:
lemon
cilantro, chopped

Place chicken, breast side down, on a work surface. Starting at the thigh end, cut along one side of backbone with kitchen shears. Turn chicken around and cut along other side. Discard backbone or save for stock. Flip chicken and open it like a book. Press firmly on breastbone to flatten. Sprinkle both sides with your rub and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

Separate veggies into two groups, veggies that take longer to cook (carrots, beets and potatoes) and veggies that don’t take as long (leek, garlic, tomatoes).

Put the longer cooking veggies in your cooking vessel along with the sprigs of thyme, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 15 minutes.

chicken white bean2

After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and add the softer vegetables (except beet greens), tomatoes, white beans, and wine. Re-season with salt and pepper and stir. Brush or drizzle the chicken with olive oil and place, skin side up, over the vegetables and return to oven to roast for about 20 minutes.

chicken white bean4

At this point I like to gently lift the chicken with some tongs and give the vegetables a stir to ensure they are cooking evenly. Return the pan to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature should be 165F). I check the internal temperature every 10 minutes and once it’s getting close, I stir in the beet greens. When the chicken has hit desired temperature, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut up the chicken and serve family style or in individual bowls garnished with a squeeze of lemon and chopped cilantro.

chicken white bean5

Husband’s Choice: Pulao with Turkey

turkeypulao5This week I experimented with two brand new recipe ideas for dinner. The first was a desperate act to use up the last of the turkey from Easter dinner (I am now referring to this dish as Turkey 4.0 as it was the fourth turkey dish in as many days) and the other was an attempt to get as far away from turkey as possible. Funnily enough, both dishes are Indian in flavour. Go figure.

Husband really loved the Indian pulao (basically a South Asian rice pilaf) to which I added diced leftover turkey (not authentic… don’t judge) and heaped into portobello mushroom caps and baked. My favourite was Indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes (which I will share with you shortly).

I know I just said that Indian pulao is basically Indian rice pilaf, but instead of plain rice I used a mixture of 11 different rices/grains/lentils that I buy at my local grocery store (T&T for anyone who is interested). It’s very healthy and tasty. I like to undercook it slightly so the grains keep some of their nice chewy texture. Your cooking time and amount of liquid may vary depending on what rice or grain you are using. My grains took about 30 minutes and I had to add another 1/2 cup of water. If you are using basmati rice, it should take less than 15 minutes to cook with no extra liquid.

You can easily make this recipe vegetarian by leaving out the turkey of course. If you still want to make a full meal of it, bake it in portobello mushroom caps like I did, or just serve it as a tasty side dish. I love recipes that are adaptable, don’t you?

2 cups of rice (basmati, wild, or a mix of grains, rice, and lentils), rinsed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 TBS butter
3 TBS chopped almonds
3 TBS golden raisins
glug of oil (vegetable or peanut)
1 large onion, halved and finely sliced
1 cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 TBS finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water to deglaze
1/2 cup coconut milk (optional, replace with water if not using)
2 cups of water
1 cup diced turkey or chicken (optional)
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
portobello mushroom caps, stem and gills removed (brushed with a mixture of oil and balsamic or soy sauce, optional)

Place a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat and toast cumin seeds until fragrant (about a minute). Remove to side dish.
Add butter to same frying pan and fry almonds and raisins until starting to brown. Remove to separate side dish.
In the same pan, heat the vegetable or peanut oil and add the sliced onions and fry until dark golden brown (about 10 minutes), then remove to side dish with almonds and raisins.

turkeypulao2

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Again, in the same pan (don’t you love that we’re only dirtying one pan?!) add toasted cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, sugar, turmeric, ginger and salt. Toast, stirring constantly (a minute or so) until aromatic. Deglaze the pan by pouring in 1/2 cup of water and gently scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom.

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Add the rice and/or grains, coconut milk (if using) and the rest of the water. Cover and gently simmer until the rice and/or grains are cooked to your liking and the water has evaporated. Check as you are cooking to ensure that the filling doesn’t dry out before it’s cooked… this will depend on what you have used for the rice and/or grains. If necessary, add more water a quarter cup at a time until done to your liking (about 15 minutes for white rice, 30 minutes or longer for whole grains/legumes). Add the peas and diced turkey if using. Stir in reserved almonds, raisins and onion. Heat through (2-3 minutes).

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You can serve “as is” at this point or if you wish, brush portobello mushroom caps with a mixture of oil and balsamic or soy sauce to increase their meaty flavour, roast cap-side up in a 400F oven for 15 minutes. Remove caps and turn over, spoon in filling, and return to oven for another 15 minutes or until mushroom is roasted and filling is heated through. Enjoy!

(Pretty Healthy) Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Curry

slow chicken curry finishRemember this? http://auntieeats.ca/2015/01/lamb-popsicles-with-indian-curry-sauce/ One of my favourite dishes from one of my favourite restaurants. I own all of Vij’s cookbooks. Many of the recipes have become favourites and now you get to try another one… sort of. This recipe is based on Vij’s Family Curry but I have adapted it substantially to make it healthier (subbing in chickpeas for a large portion of the meat and cutting back on the fat), and easier (hello boneless skinless chicken thighs and sloooooooow-cooker). Don’t worry, it still has the same deliciousness as the original, but with much less hassle.

The original version of this recipe is a regular “birthday-dinner” request of my second-oldest Niece. I wish I still lived close enough to my “middle” nieces to cook for them on a regular basis but since I don’t, I’m hoping my take on one of their favourite meals is so much easier that they will someday make it for themselves (do teenagers cook for themselves? I’m not sure but maybe they’ll give it a try). This makes 4 servings (Husband and I for dinner with leftovers) and you can easily double the recipe if you wish.

glug of vegetable or canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 TBS fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 14-oz can good quality whole tomatoes (use 1 28-oz can if doubling)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 TBS cumin seeds, ground
1 TBS coriander seeds, ground
1 TBS garam masala
pinch cayenne pepper or a shake of chili pepper flakes
1 14-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken stock (can be made with good quality stock paste such as Better Than Bouillion)
1/2 pound (approximately 4) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup sour cream
chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

In a large pan heat oil on medium heat, add onions and cinnamon stick and sauté until the onions start to turn slightly golden (about 5 minutes). Add chopped garlic and saute another minute.

slow chicken curry onion

slow chicken curry spices

Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne or red pepper flakes. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring a couple times and breaking up the tomatoes with a spatula. Stir in the chickpeas and the chicken stock.

Nestle chicken thighs into the sauce. Cook for a more couple minutes, turn over thighs and cook for a couple more minutes. Your goal here is to warm the chickpeas and start heating the thighs to give the slow cooking a bit of a head start.

slow chicken curry chicken

Add all the pan ingredients to your slow cooker and turn on low for 4 hours.

At the 3 1/2 hour mark (30 minutes before you plan to eat), put the sour cream into a small bowl or measuring cup, scoop a couple spoonfuls of the hot tomato-y sauce from the slow cooker into it and stir well (you’re tempering your sour cream so it won’t curdle when heated). Add the sour cream mixture into the slow cooker and stir.

slow chicken curry cooker

Continue to cook for another 30 minutes. When you’re ready for dinner, pull the chicken apart in the curry with a couple of forks. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with naan or rice.

Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pie finishedThere are days when it’s rainy and blowy outside and you just want to hunker down with a blanket, slippers, and a good book. Fire crackling (in a fireplace or tuned in to that local “Christmas log” TV station that seems to show up over the holidays every year). Delicious smells wafting from the oven. I was feeling this last weekend when we received record amounts of rain over 2 days. To quote Eeyore, “The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually.” Another nice thing about rain is that it makes me think COMFORT FOOD, and I looooove comfort food, don’t you?!

This is purpose-made chicken pot pie and I’m going to be honest with you; this is not the weekday dinner pot pie you throw together when you have leftover meat, gravy, and potatoes. This is a rainy-day-Sunday-I’m-going-to-spend-3-hours-in-the-kitchen kind of pie. If you don’t have to stop to take pictures or re-measure ingredients every time you adjust the recipe, it may take you a bit less. But this is cooking for enjoyment, don’t fight it. Put on some good music and just go with the flow. You won’t regret it.

I based this recipe on one from Smitten Kitchen here http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/10/better-chicken-pot-pies/ but upped the measurements so it would feed us twice. I also cut back on the butter, added mushrooms, and amped up the flavour in the form of soy sauce, anchovy paste, pecorino cheese and of course, the obligatory shake of hot pepper. I can hear some of you now… “anchovy paste! Ewwwwwww!”. Will it add depth to the flavour of your filling? Yes. Will it make it taste fishy? No. Can you leave it out of the recipe? Yes. Do you want to be THAT person who is unwilling to try something new? No! :)

(For those of you who refuse, absolutely refuse, to try anchovy paste, I have a little trick for you. Marmite. You’re welcome.)

This recipe makes approximately 10 cups of filling and enough dough for 8 individual pies, depending on the size of your ramekins, of course. Use half the filling and dough today and freeze the other half for later. The frozen filling and dough will make an easy weeknight dinner if you remember to take it out of the freezer the night before.

Don’t overfill your ramekins! When the filling starts bubbling up it will soak the dough and make the crust soggy if the ramekins are too full. Although I must confess I am a chronic “over-filler” and it’s still delicious.

For the dough:

2 cups (250 grams) all- purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
13 tablespoons (6 1/2 ounces) cold butter, diced
6 tablespoons sour cream or Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup very cold water
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

For the filling:

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 to 2 glugs olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch slices
1 large onion, diced small

1/2 cup white wine (optional)
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1 bay leaf
couple sprigs of fresh thyme

4 tablespoons of fat (schmaltz from your fried chicken or butter at room temperature)
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp anchovy paste (or Marmite)
1 cup frozen green peas
2 large carrots, diced small (about 1 1/2 cup carrots)
couple shakes of hot pepper flakes, to taste
1 1/2 ounces finely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

To make the dough,

combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut them up into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some remaining butter chunks the size of small peas. In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, vinegar, and water and add it to the butter/flour. Using a spatula, stir until a craggy dough forms. Use your hands to gather it into a ball. Don’t overwork the dough and if it starts to become warm, put it in the fridge for 10 minutes. You want those little chunks of butter to stay whole for a flaky crust. Form the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to a couple days.

To make the filling,

season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a glug of olive oil over medium-high heat in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large heavy pot. Brown chicken thighs skin-side down until golden, flip and brown the other side. You will want to do this in two batches because crowding the chicken will steam it rather than fry it. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Pour off most of the fat (reserving it to use later in this recipe) leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan . Add the mushrooms and fry until they release their liquid and start to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside.

chicken pot pie mushrooms

Use some of the fat you poured off the chicken or heat another glug of olive oil in the same pot. Add onions and leeks, season with salt and pepper, and saute them until softened, about 7 minutes. If using, pour in the wine and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until most of the wine has cooked off and then add milk, chicken broth, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Nestle the browned chicken and any accumulated juices into the pot. Cover and GENTLY simmer to 30 minutes, after which the chicken should be fully cooked and tender.

chicken pot pie simmer

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves and sprigs from the thyme (leaves should have fallen into the sauce by now). Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon and set aside.

In a medium bowl, using a fork, mash 4 TBS of the chicken fat from frying the chicken (replace any or all of it with butter if you prefer) with the flour into a paste. Ladle some of the warm liquid over it, and stir until smooth. Add a second ladle and stir again. Return this flour mixture to the larger pot, stir to combine, and bring back to a simmer for 10 minutes. The sauce should thicken to a gravy-like consistency.

Add soy sauce, anchovy paste, carrots and peas to stew and simmer for a few minutes to soften the vegetables. Shred or dice the chicken, discarding the bones and skin and return the meat to the pot along with the reserved mushrooms. Stir in a shake of hot pepper flakes and the grated pecorino. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more soy sauce, anchovy paste, salt and pepper, and/or hot pepper flakes to your liking.

chicken pot pie end additions

This is where I divide my filling and dough, freezing half of each (wrap the dough in cling wrap and put in freezer bag) and continue making 4 pies with the other half.

Assemble and bake pies: Heat your oven to 375F.

Divide remaining chilled dough into quarters. Roll each portion into rounds that will cover your ramekin or baking dishes with a 1-inch overhang. Cut vents into rounds.

chicken pot pie dough roll

Ladle filling into four bowls, filling only to an inch or so below the rim to leave room for simmering (see what I did there? I didn’t leave enough room for simmering. Oh well, still delicious). Whisk egg with water to make an egg wash. Brush edges of bowls with egg wash and place a lid over each bowl, pressing gently to adhere it to the outer sides of the bowl. Brush the lids with egg wash. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake until crust is bronzed and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes.

chicken pot pie ramekins

chicken pot pie pre bake

Serve with a tangy salad.

chicken pot pie end

Rosemary-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken

chicken fry dinnerWinner, winner, chicken dinner. There is nothing better than friiiiiiiiiied chicken! And when you say that in your head, “friiiiiiied chicken”, you need to do it with a Southern drawl because… friiiiiiied chicken!!!

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, Husband and I pick up KFC (don’t judge) and eat it on the deck with a bottle of good champagne. That tradition started years ago in our quest to prove that champagne goes with everything, and it truly does, but it goes especially well with fried chicken. The beautiful sparkly bubbles cut right through the heaviness of the oil and make it possible for you to eat just one more piece. :)

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