Friday, April 30, 2010

RECIPE: Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

Life got crazy yesterday...with work, 5 attempts to go to the gym (one was FINALLY successful), and preparing for my catering gig this weekend. As with most nights, my time to unwind is in the kitchen with good tunes and my husband not far. But last night, I was just hungry, tired, and didn't want to undo an hour at the gym by taking the easy route with carry out.  I know there are plenty of healthy choices to carry out, but you guys have to understand...I'm weak.  Plus, I had a bunch of chicken breasts I had defrosting in the fridge and fresh (and it's seasonal) asparagus.

This is a simple, sophisticated recipe that plates pretty well. No one will know it took less than 30 minutes.  Pictured here with roasted asparagus.


Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce
Serves 2-3

2-3 chicken breast halves, sliced into cutlets (or pounded thin).  Tips on how to slice thin.  Or shortcut it and buy the already thin slices at the store
1.5 tablespoon of olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons of capers, drained
1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of chicken broth or stock
Juice from half of a lemon
1/8 tablespoon of butter

Heat a large skillet (I don't recommend non-stick) on medium/medium high and add olive oil.  I like to start out my All Clad pan out on low, and then gradually increase the heat.  That way there is a more even temperature all around the pan, instead of getting choppy spots when you crank the heat from the get go. Once the oil is nice and hot and shimmering, add chicken breast.  Lightly salt the uncooked side.  The capers give this dish a ton of salty flavor, so go easy on the chicken.

Give the chicken some space.  Don't crowd the pan and don't flip too early.  Let the heat naturally release the breast from the pan.  Plus, you want that nice brown coloring on the breast.  Turn cutlets over to cook other side.  Once each piece of chicken is done (you may have to work in batches the halves may yield 2 cutlets each) put aside on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

In the same pan, there should be brown bits and spots all over.  That's fine, as long as it's not black, you're in good shape.  That fun stuff there is called "fond" and is where the flavor from the sauce will come from.  Add shallots and cook until soft...maybe a minute or two.  Start deglazing the  pan by adding the chicken stock and lemon juice.  With a wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits.  You'll notice it should come right up and incorporate into the sauce.  Reduce by about a half of the liquid.  Add capers, warm them through.  Take the pan off the heat and swirl in the butter.  Spoon mixture over chicken and serve.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

RECIPE: Easy Kimchee Jigea (Kimchee Stew)

The miracle of kimchee flavor lies in the fermentation that goes on while it sits in the fridge, or under ground...bubbling and developing its awesome kimchee flavor.  This pickled treat tends to get better in time...but it will reach a point where it's not longer crispy and takes on a super tart flavor.  Some people dig on the older kimchee (I myself am a "new" kimchee fan).  However, when it gets to be a little to...ripe (for my tastes), it is the perfect time to make kimchee jigea.

I grew up on this fragrant, flavor packed dish.  It was a favorite weeknight meal from Mama Lee.  It is always served with a hot bowl of steamed white rice.  As kimchee is the national dish of Korea, the culinary derivative that is kimchee jigea makes sense.  Don't you wish you could take anything past its prime and make it into a delicious stew?


Easy Kimchi Jigea (Kimchee Stew)
Serves 2

1/4 lb of pork belly (I used boneless pork loin rib because it was on sale, but traditionally it's made with pork belly). Sliced thin or cubed.
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of kimchee, chopped into bite size pieces
1/4-1/2 cup (depends on how spicy you like things) of kimchee juice (the marinade that's left in the jar)
1/2 cup of water
1/2 tablespoon of gochu gaaroo (Korean red pepper powder) if you don't have this on hand, don't worry, skip it.  I don't recommend substituting anything for it.
1/2 tablespoon of denjang (Korean bean paste) if you don't have this on hand, skip it.  Or use a little miso.
1/2 package of firm tofu, drained and patted dry, cubed
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 green onion, sliced

Heat up the cast iron pot with the sesame oil.  Sauté the pork and onion together until pork is done.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant...that should only take about a minute.  Add kimchee.  Sauté kimchee until soft and almost translucent.  Add kimchee juice and water.  Bring to a boil and simmer.  Add the pepper powder and bean paste if you have it on hand.  Combine.  Taste.  Add more kimchi juice, pepper, or paste to your taste.  Carefully stir in tofu and combine.  Tofu breaks up easily, which is why it is added before serving.  Garnish generously with green onions.  Serve with Korean sticky white rice and don't plan on kissing anyone for at least a day.  Unless of course, they have indulged also in your kimchee stew.

Note: Everyone does this dish differently, and I've modified it to fit most American kitchens (that happen to have some ripe kimchee around).  Some recipes call for Asian cooking wine, red bean paste, etc...stuff you have to make a special trip to the Asian grocery store for.  I made mine in a mini cast iron cooking pot that is common in Korean cooking.  You gringos can pull this off in a small or medium deep saucepan...whatever you cook your single serving of Ramen in.  

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why doesn't Harness Your Kim Chi have a kimchee recipe?

Oh Google Analytics.  If there's one thing you have taught me is that my site traffic comes from people looking for kimchee guidance, only to find random ramblings from a home cook.  Who knew!  And I thought I had 2 readers!  After an average of 19 seconds this visitor generally moves on to an actual kimchee site.

Well then.

Here's my kimchi challenge.

Korean ajummas are reluctant to share their recipes.  Even with their own family.  My mom once told me that her kimchee recipe did not exist and that she does something different each time.  The one time I came over (pictured above) to make kimchee at the house, the kimchee marinade was mysteriously already prepared.  When I asked how she made it, the subject was quickly changed.  Our real estate agent confirmed this the other day when he mentioned his Korean mother in law (qualifies as an ajumma, I assume) will reveal only parts of her recipes as she sneaks in secret ingredients behind their backs....("what?  she didn't say there was ginger ale in the recipe!").

So. Fine then.  I will develop my own.  That will be the task for this summer. I recently claimed on the site that I was going to learn how to compost, to no avail (catch up guys, my promises are no good).  But this time I'm for real.  I will make my own kimchee.  AND I will share it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RECIPE: Spicy Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Diffuse this salt bomb recipe by using low sodium soy sauce, thinning out the soy sauce with a little water, and when eaten on it's own, add some fresh steamed broccoli.  This dish tastes great wrapped up in lettuce (fairly guilt-free), or over a bed of steamed brown rice (both are shown below with a side of kimchee).  I tossed the brown rice with some leftover chopped parsley and green onions for a little color and flavor.


Spicy Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

2.5 tablespoons of chunky peanut butter (I used Smart Balance Rich Roast chunky)
1 hefty tablespoon of Sambal Oelek (Asian chili paste, it's next to the Sriracha usually at the grocery store)
4-5 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
2 chopped green onions, reserve a tablespoon or two for garnish
1 head of leafy green lettuce
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed.  Cubed.
1 teaspoon canola oil

Whisk first four ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  If it's looking a little too thick, add a tablespoon or two of water.  Heat oil in medium non-stick pan on medium heat.  Add chicken and cook until done.  Pour in sauce mixture.  Stir and combine until the mixture is bubbling.  Serve with lettuce wraps or over steamed rice. Garnish with remaining green onion.

Variation: Try it with chicken break or shrimp.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Playlist for Your Kitchen

For those of you who don't know (outside of my two person readership), I am equally passionate about good music as I am about food.   I am rarely in the kitchen without my music on.  I don't mind prepping veggies and herbs in a music induced trance.

I recently reconnected with a dear friend of mine who I have always admired for his impeccable taste in music.  He came to our belated wedding reception and dropped a mix cd in the pot with all of the envelopes of well wishes.  I haven't been able to stop listening to it, and it's been a favorite in the kitchen this last week.  Thanks Jimmy.

So from my stomach and my ears:

Furr  -  Blitzen Trapper 
Walk In the Park -  Beach House
Too Many Birds - Bill Callahan 
French Navy - Camera Obscura 
So Far from Your Weapon - The Dead Weather 
Laura - Girls
Romance Is Boring - Los Campesinos!
Higher Than the Stars - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart 
Mirror Ball - The Crayon Fields All the Pleasures of the World
In the Summertime - The Rural Alberta Advantage
1999 - Shout Out Louds
Well-Alright - Spoon
Knotty Pine - David Byrne & Dirty Projectors

Friday, April 16, 2010

RECIPE: Tabbouleh


Hillary and I used to make tabbouleh after school on weekdays and take it to Bull Run Park when we were in high school.  We'd sit around and do whatever teenagers do.  Pretty sophisticated now that I think about it.  We've always shared a love of good food and we certainly didn't make hot pockets when we got home.  We made Mediterranean side dishes.  Check out Hillary's blog ( and try not to judge Harness Your Kimchi for having a sixth of the recipes!  We'll get there.  In the meantime, please enjoy one of my favorite throwbacks.

Tabbouleh (Wheat or Parsley Salad...depends on how you look at it!)
Serves about 4 with leftovers

One of the great things about this recipe, other than being delicious, is that you can play with the amount of starch vs green.  I've seen this salad heavy on the Bulgar wheat, and some with hardly any. It's really whatever you prefer.

A bunch of parsley leaves, chopped finely either by hand or the processor
3-4 green onions, chopped thinly
5-6 sprigs of mint, leaves chopped finely
Pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in halve lengthwise
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped.  Just chopped if you have an English cucumber
1 cup dry Bulgar Wheat
1 cup stock (of any kind)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Few glugs of GOOD extra virgin olive oil

Bring the cup of stock to a boil.  Add Bulgar wheat.  Cover and refrigerate for no less than half an hour to cook the Bulgar wheat through.

Chop your fresh ingredients.

Man this recipe is easy.

Combine all fresh ingredients with the Bulgar.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Glug it down with some olive oil.  Combine thoroughly. Let stand for no less than 45 minutes to an hour. But I know you won't be able to go ahead and enjoy.  If you let this stand, the flavors will have time to combine and marinate.  The longer you wait, the better it tastes.  Serves best at room temperature.

Note: Your lemon not giving you enough juice?  Nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds and roll it on your counter to release the juices inside.  Not enough?  In most recipes that call for fresh lemon juice, the juice can be enhanced by grating the peel with your microplane.  Now you know.

Not freezable.  Mint looks gross frozen.