Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chicken With Potatoes, Prunes And Pomegranate Molasses

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You will be knocked off your socks when you find out that there's nothing more to this recipe than throwing a few ingredients into a pot and waiting for it to cook. Two hours later you will be marvelling at the genius of Yotam Ottolenghi. Yes I know, I'm one of his groupies and after this dish I will follow him blindly to the end of the earth!

To begin with, there's no fat.  Take it from me, I read through the ingredients twice, There's no browning of the chicken either.  A few of my regular readers who watch their waistline like a hawk will like that.  What did it for me, though, was the one-pot dish...talk about minimizing the clean-up!





I really don't know what made me take a plunge and make this recipe.  It must have been the simplicity of it all.  I do try to keep things low key during the week, seeing that my life has so drastically changed in the last few months.  What I never expected was what came out  two hours later.  It was a masterpiece and worthy of serving to your most distinguished guests.  Let's just say that Madame Mere cleaned her plate and she does not go for the exotic at this stage of her life.  

That being said, here are a few steps that I suggest you follow.  First, if you are using a large Le Creuset pot or cocotte, it is easier to work with legs and thighs separately.  They don't need to fit in one layer, but they are easier to maneuver.  Just throw them in and let them fall where they will.  Do not buy skinless.  People! this is the only fat in this dish! you can remove the skin later, if you must, after you have been served.  Without the skin you won't get that color and the chicken pieces may not come out as juicy as they are meant to.





I bought the small lgolden potatoes, called honey potatoes.  I don't think it much matters which ones you get as long as they are small and yellow,  but I would peel them.  I didn't do it thinking the skin was so thin I could get away with it;  but I think the skin prevents them from absorbing some of the flavors.

I obviously could not find pomegranate molasses in my little town in Georgia but I read that it is very similar to balsamic vinegar and that was what I used.  You can find it on Amazon or you can make your own.  I have placed an order and will definitely use it next time as I hear it is fantastic on marinades and sauces.

The top photo of this dish is by Colin Campbell for the Ottolenghi website., The rest are mine.  You know I'm just a cook with a little camera, not a photographer with fancy equipment.  The reason I put his up on top is to show you that, when compared to my results, one gets exact ly as promised.  No fancy camera work in mine, just point and shoot.

Although Ottolenghi suggests crusty bread and a salad to accompany, I couldn't resist the white rice with a simple salad on the side. It's up to you, bread or rice.

For the amount of work involved, the depth of flavor in this recipe is remarkable.  It is the work of a genius. Just take a leap of faith with me and make it, just the way it says.  You will be amazed at the results and may even become an Ottolenghi groupie together with Madame Mere and me! 






 Ingredients

 Serves four generously (It really serves 6!)


8 whole chicken legs (ie, each with a drumstick and a thigh; 2kg in all)
16 medium charlotte potatoes, peeled (about 800g net)
3 large onions, peeled and quartered
120g/ 1/2 cup pitted prunes 
30g/ 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
100ml/ 6 TB soy sauce
90ml/ 3 oz pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp maple syrup 
120g/4 oz sweet mango chutney
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
20g oregano sprigs, plus a few picked leaves to garnish

Method

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, then tip into a large casserole dish. Cover with a lid (or thick foil), and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, and cook for two hours longer, stirring every now and then.

When the time is up, remove the dish from the oven, stir once more, cover and set aside for at least 15 minutes, to rest and allow the flavours to mingle. Garnish with a few oregano leaves, and serve with a sharp green salad and some good bread to mop up the lovely juices.
       

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New Addition to the Staff...

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 It is with great pleasure that I introduce Madison (Maddie) Macintosh to all our readers.  Madison has joined us as a junior member of the clean up crew under the supervision of Lily the lab and Coco the cat.  Her participation and enthusiasm have been above average and show great promise for a bright future as a senior member of Lindaraxa's staff. We expect her training as Apprentice Sous Chef to begin in the Spring of 2015.  We are all very excited to have Madision as part of our family.

Chef's Note: For those of you not familiar with the West Highland White Terrier (Westie) breed, in time, their bodies catch up to their ears!  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fried Fish, Southern Style

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Let's face it...nobody fries fish like a Southerner and this recipe is not for for the fainthearted or for those with a cholesterol problem, but boy is it good!  Yes, we have all had fish sticks, particularly Mrs Paul's, remember those? I had my share when we first arrived in this country and my mother discovered her in the frozen food department.  They were a staple at our dinner table on Friday nights when, as good Catholics, we were supposed to abstain from eating meat.  For breakfast or dessert there was always Aunt Jemima or  Sara Lee.  Together with Betty Crocker, those four women kept us alive and well fed while my mother learned to cook.

I haven't had fish sticks or fried fish in years, that is, until I came to the South.  Here I learned about fried oysters and whenever my daughter is out of town, MM and I splurge on a pint.  Last week I had some cod that was kind of blah looking but still quite fresh  and perfect for frying, southern style. I was so right, and it was so good that my daughter didn't even complain about the frying.

This recipe is more about Southern frying than about fish.  In my search for the best and authentic I turned to none other than one of  the greatest American cooks and the doyenne of southern country cooking, Edna Lewis.  Her recipes represent home cooking at its Southern best..  They are a real treasure and if you don't have one of her books, you don't know what you are missing.




Mother was horrified when she saw me taking photos for the blog while the fish sat in paper towels on a plate.  I am in the camp of another great Southern cook, Lee Bailey, who said food should be photographed the way it looks with no fancy embellishments around it.

This is the kind of food you serve right out of the pan via a plate with paper towels..  It is family fare not company food.  No need for silver or fancy plates. Just you and the fish.


Yes, it is a bit messy but it comes off easily with just vinegar and water.


Make the Coconut rice ,but if you really want to be a Southerner, a yellow rice pilaf and a simple tomato salad or coleslaw and ice tea is the way to go.




 Edna Lewis's original recipe calls for freshwater fish, such as catfish, perch or whiting.  I made these with cod and it was excellent.  I bet it would be great with yellow tail !   Do make it with peanut oil which heats to a higher degree than other oils.  It is an integral part of this recipe and of southern frying.  Lastly, I have halved the original recipe so adjust accordingly if you are frying more fish.

Fried Fish Recipe Adapted from A Fish Fry For Porgy, Edna Lewis

4 people

Ingredients

3 Cups Peanut Oil
4 to 8 fish fillets, freshwater or saltwater

Dredge

1 cup white cornmeal
2 TB all purpose flour
1 TB cornstarch
1 TB sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

lemon wedges to accompany

Directions:

Mix together all the ingredients for the dredge.  In an iron skillet heat the oil,to 340 degrees F.When it reaches that temperature, quickly dredge the fish fillets in the cornmeal mix shake the excess and slip one at a time into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan.  You will need to cook the fish in batches.  Fry the fish until golden brown and crisp all over, about 5 to 7 minutes.    Remove from the oil and place on crumpled paper towels. Serve immediately!

All photos Lindaraxa

Recipe adapted from Edna Lewis




Friday, March 6, 2015

A Taste Of The South...Coconut Rice

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If you have ever had fish or shellfish with coconut rice, you know there is no return.  For me it was many moons ago, as part of a lunch on the terrace of a beautiful house by the sea.  The owners are long gone and so is the cook, a wonderful Colombian woman by the name of Albertina who made rice like no one else.  She was from the coast, near the beautiful city of Cartagena.  That was a memorable lunch and it goes to show you that a meal doesn't have to be fancy to stay in your mind forever.

Coconut rice is a dish prepared by soaking white rice in coconut milk or cooking it with coconut flakes.  It is found in many cultures around the world from Southeast Asia to the Caribbean.  It is also found in Southern cooking particularly accompanying dishes typical of the coastal South.

I make many variations of coconut rice, but the other night I came across Edna Lewis' recipe from her book The Gift Of Southern Cooking and it was so simple and sounded so good I decided to try it and serve it with the shrimp I had just bought.  If you have never had coconut rice with shrimp, I urge you to try this recipe.  Suffice it to say, Madame Mere had seconds, of the rice not the shrimp!

Edna Lewis cooks her coconut rice in the oven but I am more familiar with making it on top of the stove. Whichever method you use should render a wonderful dish.

If you want to learn to fry fish like a Southerner, stay tuned, it's coming up next!




Coconut Rice

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

14 oz canned or fresh coconut milk, unsweetened
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 small onion finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 medium fresh tomato, peeled seeded and finely chopped, 2/3 cup
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 kaffir lime leaf (optional)
Cilantro to garnish(optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour the coconut milk into a heavy-bottomed pot or casserole.  Bring to a boil and add the rice, onion, tomato and salt.  Cover tightly with a lid or double thickness of foil. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Take out of the oven, test for seasoning, Fluff with two forks and serve.

*I sauteed the onions in a small amount of butter, added the tomatoes and the rice and them the milk, kaffir lime leaf and the salt. Brought to a boil. reduced heat and cooked on top of the stove for about 30 minutes.

All photos Lindaraxa
Recipe adapted fronm Edna Lewis   

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

French Comfort...Coq Au Vin

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This could easily have been titled, "What to do when there's nothing to do" or "What I made last Sunday during an ice storm".  Yes, I know, it's been a tough month for those of us above and below the Mason Dixon Line.  The North has been buried in snow and the South has been a a toss up between snow and ice.  We are all sick of this weather and starting to get on each other's nerves. It's called cabin fever and it's time to cook up a storm!

I haven't made this dish since the late 1970's.  The reason I know is that, inside the page on the Julia Child cookbook, there is a notepad sheet of paper with my husband's name on top from a job he held when we were first married,  There are some notes in my handwriting that are so old I could barely read them.   In it I've made some slight substitutions to the order of the directions that cut down the time by about half an hour, It also eliminates having to wash two extra pans without affecting the flavor or the end result.  All my life I have tried to cut back on unnecessary pans and steps, even as a young cook. I could give a master class on this technique.

Coq Au Vin is one of those recipes every serious student of French cuisine should attempt to make early on in his or her career. From the browning of the chicken pieces in bacon and butter to the proper way of  thickening the sauce at the end, it is a master class in French country cooking. Be grateful someone came up with the beurre manie.  The alternative, in the olden days, was using the blood from your newly butchered rooster.  And yes, you are no longer required to chase and butcher the bird.  Chicken pieces are acceptable although a whole chicken cut into pieces would be more authentic.  I used chicken pieces, like thighs and legs.  If you must use breasts, split them in half.

You also learn about the term depth of flavor through a few easy techniques such as sauteing the pearl onions and the mushrooms in the drippings of the browned chicken, prior to adding them to the stew.  This is the step I moved up, using the same pan as the one I had previously used to saute the bacon in butter and brown the chicken pieces.

Following is the original recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 with these slight changes.

Do try to make this recipe the day before you serve it, Once it cools, it can be placed in the refrigerator overnight.  When you bring it out the next day, if there is any fat, skim it.  Then slowly reheat at a very low temperature.  I made it early in the day and it was finger licking good.  It was even better the next day.

As to the wine, please use a decent and hearty French wine.  You can get a good one for less than $10 at Costco and, last I heard,  Two Buck Chuck is not being produced in Burgundy! What grows together goes together, I can't say that enough.  It applies to fats also and, in this case, butter and  bacon and not olive oil are the way to go.  One day is not going to make that big of a difference in your heart rate or your weight.

I suggest that before the next winter storm is announced, and I think you have a pretty good chance of this, you have all the ingredients on hand.

As I finish this post the snow is coming down hard in North Georgia.  Madame Mere will finally get her snow.  I hope my gardenias survive this winter.




Julia Child's Coq Au Vin

Ingredients

3 to 4 ounce chunk of lean bacon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 to 3 pounds frying chicken, cut into pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional for seasoning

1/8 teaspoon pepper, plus additional for seasoning

1/4 cup cognac

3 cups young, full-bodied red wine, such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, or Chianti

1 to 2 cups brown chicken stock, brown stock or canned beef bouillon

1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

12 to 24 pearl onions

1/2 pound mushrooms, I used baby bellas

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons softened butter

Fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1-inch long). Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water. Rinse in cold water. Dry.

In a heavy large heavy bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, saute the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned (temperature of 260 degrees F for an electric skillet). Remove to a side dish.

Now sautee the onions and the mushrooms separately until a slight amber color.  Remove to another plate, separate from the chicken.

Dry the chicken thoroughly. Brown it in the hot fat in the casserole. (360 degrees F for the electric skillet.) Remove to a plate.

Now sautee the onions and the mushrooms separately in the same fat as the chicken, until a slight amber color.  Remove to another plate, separate from the chicken.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Return the bacon to the casserole with the chicken. Cover and cook slowly (300 degrees F) for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.

Uncover, and pour in the cognac. Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside. MAKE SURE THE STOVE AIR VENT IS CLOSED OR YOU MIGHT HAVE AN UNHAPPY SURPRISE.

Pour the wine into the casserole. Add just enough stock or bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork. Remove the chicken to a side dish.

Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the casserole for 1 to 2 minutes, skimming off fat. Then raise the heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups. Correct seasoning. Remove from heat, and discard bay leaf.

Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth paste (beurre manie). Add a little of the hot liquid from the sauce to make it easier to blend. Beat the paste into the hot liquid with a wire whip. Bring to the simmer, stirring and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

Arrange the chicken in a casserole, place the mushrooms and onions around it and baste with the sauce. If the dish is not to be served immediately, place the mushrooms and onions on top of the chicken (see photo above) film the top of the sauce with stock or dot with small pieces of butter. Set aside uncovered for no longer than 1 hour or cool, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Shortly before serving, bring the casserole to a simmer, basting the chicken with the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is heated through.

Serve from the casserole, or arrange on a hot platter. Decorate with sprigs of parsley.

Slightly adapted from Mastering the Art Of French Cooking, by Julia Child

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

RIP Little Lucy

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We said goodbye to our beloved little girl Lucy this past January, nine month after she was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  She died peacefully in my arms next to her sister whom she adored. She was a trooper until the end.

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know her best as the Sous Chef of Lindaraxa and author of The View From My Corner and The View From The Top of the Stairs; but she was much more than that.  She was the best companion anyone could ever hope for and, above all, she was a lot of fun. It was easy to write her posts for I could read her mind almost as well as she could read mine..

I am going to keep this short for I still can't write about her without getting myself all worked up. She had a lot of friends on Facebook and Twitter and they have been most supportive in helping me get through these highly emotional months  .  It is gratifying to know she touched so many lives and made so many friends.   She had a lot of fans here too and I thought you should know, but it hasn't been easy and I miss her a lot.  I will be back soon but, as you can well understand, it is tough to share of oneself when one is not in the right frame of mind.

I will leave you with two posts ( here and here) from My Kitchen By The Lake and you will understand why we Westie lovers like this breed so much.  It's called Westitude and Lucy had it in spades.



Sail on, little one...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Bittersweet Start To The New Year

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About the only thing that is showing any beauty or color in the garden are the ornamental kale and cabbage I planted last Fall.  They are putting on quite a show!


At the end of October 2014

Mid December 2014

Early January 2015 












Meantime, back at the house....a pipe burst during the freeze we had the last couple of days and it happened to be in Mother's new apartment.  A piece of the wall in the guest bedroom had to be removed together with all the molding around the floor.  Additionally,  the padding for the rug and some of the hardwood floor in the rest of the apartment have to be replaced.  We have six large and noisy fans drying the floors and MM is back upstairs.  After seven months of problems and delays, we got to enjoy the place for less than two months.  Now we are back to square eight and another big expense.

The nostalgia that engulfed me at the beginning of the year has now turned into a full fledged depression.  Madame Mere and I both agree that someone down there doesn't want us moving into their old space.  The time has come for some drastic measures and a serious cleansing!


My new cleaning crew


Back in a bit.

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