Chicken and potato and leek stew – a recipe

It’s getting cooler now, with the autumn coming, so I thought I’d do a stew, it’s perfect cold weather food. This recipe is based on the French soup, vichyssoise, a cold, creamy soup made of potato and leek. This stew is a take, and when cooked, looks a bit like the filling of a chicken pot pie. This recipe was supposed to be a quick one, but it took me a minute to make it -nearly an hour.

The main difference between this recipe and the vichyssoise recipe is that the vegetables can be browned in this recipe. The vichyssoise recipe is meant to be snow white, so when you cook the food, you have to be careful not to brown the veg to color the soup.

Also, a vichyssoise is cold, meant to be served chilled, but this stew is meant to be served hot as it’s the kind of stew you eat when it’s chilly and rainy outside.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small bag of baby potatoes, diced – I do this because I want the potatoes to cook quickly
  • 1 leek, sliced – you can include the green bits, because we’re not going for that bone china white look – also be very careful that you clean the leeks, there’s a beach-worth of sand and grit in the leaves
  • 4 green onions, sliced – separate the greens from the white – slice the white bit, and mince the green bit and keep aside for serving at the end
  • 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 8 oz of button mushrooms, diced
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup of soured cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil

Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick pan and throw in the chicken and cook over a moderate heat, letting it brown lightly. This will take about 5, 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, raise the heat and let the food brown a bit – leave it alone for a bit to color the bottom of the pan and shake to loosen. The idea isn’t to cook the chicken and potatoes through – you’ll be braising, but you want to cook to add some color and to brown it a bit. You’ll also create a nice fond on the bottom of the pan.

Fish the potatoes and chicken and set aside and cover. Lower the heat on the pan and add the leek, onion, the white bit of the green onion, the shallot, the mushrooms and stir, scraping up the bottom of the pan. Add some salt, which will draw some moisture out, making it easier to scrape the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, letting it caramelize. Add some of the water and stir, letting the water becoming thick and syrupy, and add the rest of the water and throw back the chicken and potatoes.

Raise the heat to high and let the water come to a boil and stir before lowering the heat to medium heat, and cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15, 20 minutes. Uncover and cook some more until the water is reduced, and then pour in the cream of chicken soup and stir, combining the reduced, thickened water and the soup until well mixed. Add the cream and continue to stir and make sure that there are no streaks of cream left.

Grind some pepper and sprinkle the minced green bits of the onion. Oh, and enjoy.

My attempt at making Thai basil fried rice

When living in Chicago, I ate a great Thai restaurant in Old Town called Tiparos Thai. Unlike most people who go to Thai restaurants to order Pad Thai, I always got the spicy basil chicken. It’s a mouth-scorching dish of chopped meat, bell peppers, green beans, Thai basil leaves, and steamed jasmine rice. The dish was studded with tiny bits of hot chilies. After eating it, my lips were swollen and numb as if I had stopped by a Michigan Avenue plastic surgeons to get my lips done. This dish was so hot that it almost hurt to drink water afterwards…

Despite the pain of eating the dish, I ordered each time I went to Tiparos.

It’s difficult to explain the draw of this dish because the taste is so spicy sometimes it feels almost unpleasant to eat it. The basil Thai has a different, silvery, tea-like taste, that gets a pleasant green swampy taste because it’s cooked and steamed. The meat is crumbled and sauteed, the nuggets crispy, giving the rice a nice bite. And the sauce acts as a base for the dish – it’s salty, sweet, and slightly pungent. I always add a bit of Sriracha, to add a fruity sweetness, as well.

Since moving to London, I’ve eaten at lots of Thai restaurants, and have eaten the dish, and enjoyed it, though for some reason I’ve never tasted it as good as Tiparos, though I’m trying (I went to an amazing Thai restaurant in Amsterdam that was pretty good)

Anyways, this is my attempt at making Thai basil rice with chicken. Obviously, this won’t be a 100% accurate – I don’t have all the ingredients in a proper Thai basil rice, and I don’t like buying ingredients I probably won’t use again, so I’ve had to do some improvising.

Also, I used boughten rice. I don’t like cheating but I’m terrible at making rice, and it’s much easier to just buy rice already boiled in the shop. Also there are recipes that call for mince, but I bought chicken and chopped it myself…The texture of mince is a bit too pasty and fine for a dish like this – I enjoy it more with the chopped chicken.

As with most of my recipes, these measurements are at-best, guesses…

Ingredients:

-Thai basil, a handful, to taste, chopped in strips
-Coriander, a handful, to taste, chopped
-300g of boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped finely – almost to a mince (or go ahead and get chicken mince) if you don’t like chicken, you can also use pork, turkey, or beef – whatever you like, or if you’d like, you can leave the meat out, I’m not the police
-1/2 of a red bell pepper chopped
-3 small shallots, sliced finely
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-4 finger chilies, minced finely – super finely – I seed the chili and remove the rib because these things are spicy AF
-1 jalapeno pepper – I just added this because I had one left in a bag that needed eating
-8, 10 green beans or string beans, with the ends chopped off, and cut the beans in half
-half a white onion, roughly chopped
– 3 large cremini mushrooms – normally, this dish doesn’t have mushrooms (I’ve never seen this dish with mushrooms) – but I had some that I wanted to use
-1 cup of chicken broth (you probably won’t use all of it)
-1 tbl of sriracha sauce (to taste, really)
-2 tbl of fish sauce (this stuff has a very strong taste/smell, so be mindful of how much you use it)
-3 tbl of soy sauce (I use the reduced sodium soy sauce, which still has loads of salt)
-1 tbl of chili paste – I used Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
-2 tbl of sugar
-some white pepper, to taste
-2 packets of cooked jasmine rice
-1/8 cups of cooking oil, something without flavor (peanut, corn, vegetable, groundnut, that sort of thing – not olive, which has too distinct a taste)

This feels like a lot of ingredients, and it is, and it’s going to be a lot of cooking and adding…You’ll be cooking over a high flame for a lot of the cooking, so keep a window open and turn on a fan (if you have one)

Before cooking, create the sauce. In a bowl or large cup, add in the broth, sriracha, fish sauce, soy sauce, chili paste, sugar, and white pepper and mix, seeing that the sugar is dissolved (I heated the broth which made the sugar melt easily)

Heat the oil over a high flame in a nonstick pan. Throw in the beans, onions and bell pepper and cooking for about four, five minutes, stirring constantly, don’t stop. The onions probably won’t color too much, and you’re not looking into browning the veg. Add the meat and stir and continue to cook, you’ll want to get a good browning on the meat – cook for about four, five minutes. Depending on how small you’ve chopped the meat, you might already have cooked the chicken at this point, but if it’s still a bit raw, no worries, it will cook.

Add the garlic and the chilies and cook for another few minutes, until you smell the garlic cooking (it’s a great smell, btw) and then add the shallots and stir and saute for another few minutes

Remember you’re cooking over a high heat, so don’t stop stirring, you don’t want anything to burn.

Add the sauce and cook…You’ll want to let the sauce get sticky and tacky, and so that it coats the veg and meat and get browned, stirring constantly. Depending on the heat, this can take about five, ten minutes. Fold the cooked meat and veg, stirring seeing that the food is coated with the sauce.

Add the basil and the cilantro and stir, letting the cilantro wilt.

Add the rice and stir constantly – you don’t want to cook this too long, because overcooking the rice will blow it out. Depending on if you like the rice to be crispy, you can let it sit for a few seconds and brown. Sprinkle some white pepper – white pepper’s got a very funky, manky smell, so be careful…

Once the rice is warmed through (remember the rice is already cooked), and you can’t see any white in the rice anymore, then you can plate it. I served it with boughten gyoza. Oh, and enjoy.


Pasta with chicken in a cream sauce

I like tagliatelle with a creamy sauce and wanted to make some one night. I didn’t have any, but I did have some lasagna sheets in my pantry and decided to improvise with that. I bought the lasagna a while ago – I probably was going to make lasagna at one point, but that didn’t happen, so I still had the sheets in my cupboard.

So to improvise tagliatelle, I took the dried lasagna sheets and snap them into credit card-sized pieces. The rest of the sauce was just a common cream sauce that I like to make with cream, chicken, and peas.

Ingredients:
-6 – 8 sheets of lasagna sheets, broken into credit card-sized pieces. Don’t feel the need to actually measure your shards against a credit card – just guesstimate.
-1 chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
-3 slices of bacon – I live in England, so we just have back bacon, but streaky, American bacon would work too – try to avoid those maple bacon – chopped into a small dice
-1/4 cup of water
-1 cup of soured cream
– 3 green onions, both white and green parts, chopped
-1 cup of frozen peas, thawed

First you’re gonna wanna make the pasta. After breaking up your lasagna sheets, throw the shards into a pot of boiling, salted water and cook according to the package – but shave off about two minutes (I like my pasta to be toothy and al dente)

While the pasta is cooking – and be careful because the pasta cooking won’t last very long – start on your sauce. First you’ll want to put your raw bacon bits onto a large, cold pan, and slowly heat over a low flame, allowing for the bacon to render its fat. This cooking will take a bit, because it’s best to work off a slow, low heat.

Once your bacon has begun to crisp and the fat has rendered, add the chopped chicken and stir and cook, allowing for the chicken to brown, letting the chicken leave a fond on the bottom of the pan. Add the water, and stir, scraping the browned bits on the bottom, and stir and raise the heat until the water is boiling and stir and cooking, letting the liquid reduce by about half – you’re looking to get a soupy, syrupy liquid. Add the cream and mix right away and constantly to make sure that the cream doesn’t separate. A neat trick I do sometimes if I’m not in a hurry is get some of the hot liquid from the pan and put it in a mug and then add the cream and stir and add the mixture into the pan. If the cream separates, it’s fine to eat, but it don’t look pretty.

Add the pasta and stir, letting the creamy sauce cover the noodles and stir and cook, letting the creamy sauce get thick. Add the peas and stir, letting the peas thaw.

Serve. Oh, and enjoy.




Arroz con pollo

London is experiencing a heatwave at the moment – but that didn’t deter me from using my new Dutch oven. We found a nice, little green Dutch oven at a charity shop and I wanted to use it for the longest time.

Cooking during a heatwave is a bit extra, but I’ve been dealing. For dinner last night, I wanted to do something with the Dutch oven and thought arroz con pollo, a Latin American dish that combines wonderful flavours like spiciness, heat, brininess. There are lots of versions of arroz con pollo and this one I cobbled together from a variety of people and sources.

The trick to good arroz con pollo is to get a great fond in your Dutch oven. Once you got that, then you’re golden. Weirdly enough, my arroz con pollo turned out greener than the kind I remember, but who cares – it tasted good. I used dark meat because I knew I’d be stewing the chicken and I didn’t want to overcook the meat, but you can use chicken breast if you’re worried about health – also as I was cooking the dish, I realised that it’s possible to do this vegetarian, just leave out the chicken or substitute it with mushrooms.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken – I had three drumsticks and two thighs – bone-in and skin-on; this is where it’s up to you to decide how you want to do this dish, I used dark meat because I wanted to stew the dish for a little bit; also the the skin and bone add flavour to your dish
  • 1/2 onion, chopped finely – I mean finely, grated even
  • 1/2 carrot, chopped finely
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped finely – see above
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped finely – like the celery and onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely – you see a theme, right?
  • a large bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped finely
  • 1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 envelope of any kind of Mexican-style seasoning – I used some leftover taco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup of olives, chopped – the olives are of your choice, whatever you got in your refrigerator door. I used the pimento-stuffed kind
  • 3 tbl of capers, rinsed and drained – this is important, ‘cuz these suckers are salty AF
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup of frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 packet of pre-cooked rice (I know, very slatternly of me)

So, first what you need to do is make the sofrito – a base for your dish. Sofrito is usually a mush of aromatics. I don’t have a blender or mixer because a London kitchen is too small for that nonsense, so I had to use two sharp knives, a cutting board, and a lot of patience. For my sofrito, I used the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and cilantro, and just chopped that up over and over again, until I got a messy, gloppy, salsa-like mush. You can do this easier in a mixer, and in fact, I recommend this, as making sofrito by hand was a little much. Once you have the sofrito put it in a bowl and set aside for a moment. 

Next heat oil in your dutch oven over a low flame and place the chicken, skin side down. I choose to do it on a cold surface because I want the skin to render. As soon as the skin starts to brown and sizzle, let it cook, undisturbed for about 7 minutes on one side. I say undisturbed because you want the skin to darken and start to render its fat and crisp up – otherwise, if you mess with the chicken too soon, it’ll just stick to the bottom of the pot (which isn’t the end of the world, btw)

After about 7 minutes, turn the chicken over and cook for an additional 7 minutes and then remove and place on a platter. At this point, I quickly add the sofrito, reserving about half of it. while that’s sweating, remove the skin from the chicken, chop into tiny, tiny bits and add back into the pan – it’s a bit like the lardons of a coq au vin – see, fusion!

Anyways, cook, stirring, letting the skin crisp up – and let the sofrito soften. Add a bit of salt to draw out the moisture and continue to cook, making sure to scrap up any of the browned chicken skin bits. Add the seasonings – I did a quarter of the envelope – and stir, letting the oil and chicken fat bloom all those Latin spices. You gotta stir though because it’s easy for the spices to burn. 

Add the roughly chopped onions and stir, cooking to get the onions to turn translucent. This will take about 8 minutes. You’ll see that you’re getting quite a fond – it’ll be dark brown (well, mine was, anyways)

Start adding the broth a little bit at a time, scraping the browned bits and darkened spices, stirring to loosen the bottom of the pan. Once you get the two cups in, return the chicken and its accumulated juices. Raise the heat to high to get it to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer…If you’re doing chicken breasts, this won’t take very long, with thighs and drumsticks, it takes longer, at least 25 minutes. Your chicken thigh is safe to eat when it registers 75° C on a meat thermometer. When it gets to about 75° C, fish the meat out and set aside and raise the heat to high again and boil down to reduce to about 1 cup of liquid – it should be nice and thick. Add the shredded chicken. Then add the olives and capers and stir. Add the rest of the reserved sofrito and keep cooking. Then this is the most controversial bit of my recipe – I add a packet of the pre-cooked, parboiled rice (the kind that comes in a pouch you gotta squeeze apart to distribute it) Most recipes call for raw rice to be added to the pan right after the sofrito to toast – but I don’t like cooking rice because I always get it wrong. With the pre-cooked stuff, all you’re really doing is heating the rice through. Often these pouched rice comes in clumps, so just make sure you’re breaking up the clumps with your wooden spoon. Add the peas and stir until they thaw (you don’t really want to heat them). Add some cilantro as a garnish (you can also add a chopped green onion – do what you want, I’m not the police)

Oh, and enjoy. 

Chicken and broccoli casserole

This recipe came out of me wanting to make a healthier version of mac n’ cheese. Macaroni and cheese is one of my favourite dishes, and as I did research on the Internet, I looked for healthier options that called for whole wheat pasta and less cheese. I thought about the kind of mac n’ cheese I like – Pret a Manger has a really good mac n’ cheese with cauliflower, and I thought about adding some kind of vegetable to my version. I liked the cauliflower of the Pret, but I prefer broccoli to cauliflower, so I chose that instead. I also had half a red bell pepper, so I chopped that up to include in the recipe.

One time I had something really amazing called lobster mac n’ cheese, and oh my god it was good. I don’t really like lobster on its own, but in a mac n’ cheese it was insane: the delicate meat nestled in the velvety sauce.

Oh, I forgot to mention how much I love that thick, gooey, silky sauce. That kind of viscous consistency can only be achieved by using Velveeta which is magic cheese food product that emulsifies beautifully. I live in the UK now, so Velveeta isn’t a thing here. They like cheese – mostly cheddar, in various degrees of sharpness, but I can’t find that familiar orange, yellow box with the familiar red letters.

So, back to the lobster thing. Since I’m not a billionaire, I opted out of boiling lobsters. Besides, cooking something alive would worry me to no end: I don’t want to re-live the scene from Annie Hall, as charming as that film is, so I decided to use chicken breasts which I poached.

The other thing is, now my kitchen is clean and the sink is empty of dishes. I wanted to do a one-pot recipe, or as close to one-pot as possible. That means I used the same sauce pan to boil the veg, the pasta, and poach the chicken. To amp up the flavour, I boiled the chopped bell pepper and broccoli until tender (but still al dente), then the chicken to create a stock, and finally the pasta, so that the pasta can absorb any of the flavours in the cooking liquid.

At the end of cooking my meal, it looked less like mac n’ cheese and more like a casserole, instead (which is what mac n’ cheese is, anyways) Mac n’ cheese has a white sauce, which adds cholesterol and fat, so I did away with that. I also used low fat cheese, and a little bit of it. As a result, the casserole was pretty good, but not the thick, luxurious mac n’ cheese I was aiming for, but that’s okay, it still worked.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 200 g of elbow macaroni (or any other small, tubular pasta)
  • 60 g of sharp cheddar, shredded – I used low-fat
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 300g of chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 60g of broccoli, diced
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 tbl of mustard – I like brown mustard
  • 1 tbl of soured cream
  • 1/3 cup of crushed potato crisps – I used slightly salted
  • Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200 C

So the first thing I did was boil some water in a small saucepan, and threw in the broccoli and red pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, so that the woody part of the broccoli is tender, but the veg is still vibrantly green. I fished the veg out and put in the chicken and poach until cooked through, 15 minutes. Afterwards, I fished the chicken out and diced into bite-sized pieces, and added the pasta and cook in the broth until the macaroni is tender, but al dente – about 6 minutes. Drain and leave aside.

Take the saucepan, rince it out with cold water and dry out and return the pasta to the pan. Add the veg, the chicken, and the cheese and stir until well-combined. Add the chicken soup, the sour cream and stir – it’ll look like the innards of a pot pie. Spoon in the mustard and mix to blend.

Oil a small-ish casserole with your olive oil (you can use butter – it tasted better with butter, but olive oil is healthier – do want you want, I’m not the police) Pour your gloppy mixture into the casserole and smooth the top with a spoon. Then take the potato crisp and crush and sprinkle over the top of your casserole until you cover the whole surface in a thin layer of potato crisps crumbs. If you have any chips left over, shove them into your maw, while you stand over the sink, looking out the window of your kitchen.

Put your casserole on the middle rack and bake for about 20, 25 minutes. I keep an eye out to make sure the crisps don’t burn – my oven has a glass door so I can keep an eye on it. Once it’s 20, 25 minutes, and the crisps are browned and the sauces is bubbly, pull out and leave it out to rest for about 10 minutes. Then spoon some – not just some, but a lot – really, you’re not meant to be restraint when eating this, you’re supposed to devour this. Oh, and enjoy.