Mains

Buttermilk Marinated Roasted Chicken

Buttermilk Marinated Roasted Chicken

Buttermilk marinated chicken is an old  classic from the  American south which,to be honest, I’d mostly forgotten about. That is until I discovered  Simin Nosrat’s Buttermilk Roasted Chicken which I’ve been making almost weekly since her wonderful cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat landed on my kitchen table. Honestly, this is a cookbook you just can’t put down. The book is as much about the joy of eating as it is about cooking. Simin’s infectious enthusiasm for food and her enlightening insights on how to cook and what to expect are gonna inspire great things happening in your own kitchen.

If you have not had a chance to see Simin’s four part TV series Salt Fat Acid Heat do be sure to do so. It is a visual feast that’s going to energizes your inner cook.

The recipe that follows is adapted slightly in that I like to divide the chicken into four parts which eliminates carving once the chicken is roasted. I’ve also included the option of adding fresh herbs to the buttermilk marinade. Otherwise the recipe is as it appears in the book. This is a roasted chicken you can count on to deliver a deeply browned crispy skin and juicy tender meat time and time again.

Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken    serves 4

  • 3 ½ -to 4 pound chicken
  • kosher or flaky sea salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme (optional)

 

Remove the backbone and divide the chicken into four pieces. Generously season the chicken with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.

Pour the buttermilk into a non-reactive bowl just large enough to hold the chicken and the marinade. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the herbs if using and stir to dissolve the salt.

Brush off excess salt from the chicken and place the chicken in the marinade. Turn the chicken several times. Seal with cling film and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 425 f/220 c with the rack set in the center position.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off excess marinade. Place the chicken in a cast iron skillet or shallow roasting pan. Tuck sprigs of fresh herbs between the chicken pieces if using.

Slide the pan all the way to the back of the oven with the legs pointed toward the rear left corner of the oven and breast pieces pointing towards the center of the oven and roast for 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 400 f/ 200 c and continue roasting for 10 minutes. Then shift the pan so the legs are facing the back right corner of the oven.

Continue roasting for another 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is well browned all over and the juices run clear when you insert a knife down to the bone between the leg and the thigh.

When the chicken is done remove the pan from the oven, lightly cover with foil, and let the chicken rest 10 minute before serving.

Note: If you don’t have buttermilk substitute plain yogurt.

Papadzules

Papadzules

 

Papadzules are the Yucatan’s extraordinarily delicious and irresistible breakfast enchiladas. Freshly made corn tortillas are dipped into a toasted pumpkin seed sauce and filled with hard cooked eggs and finished with additional sauce and a Yucatecan spicy salsa de jitomate! The nuanced flavors of the Yucatan’s pre-Colombian Mayan cuisine will all be revealed within the very first bite.

There are several components and perhaps some unfamiliar ingredients used for this recipe, but the preparations will allow you time to immerse yourself in the flavors and techniques that make the food of the Yucatan so unique. I find working away in the kitchen is a perfect time to let your thoughts wander and savor the journey as well as ending up with a meal that has a story of its own to tell.

There are a couple of ingredients that are Yucatan specific that may be hard to find, but I have included alternatives that reflect the intended flavor.

Epazote

Epazote

Epazote is especially popular with cooks in the Yucatan. It is a wild herb with a slightly astringent resinous flavor that is best used fresh, although dried is perfectly acceptable. It is an acquired taste, but pairs well when cooked with beans as well as soups and stews. Available fresh in some Latin markets or dried online. It is also easy to grow if you become a fan. An alternative flavor combination is provided in the recipe.

Habanero chile

Habanero chile

The Yucatan is the largest exporter of Habanero chiles in the world. The Habanero is a relatively small chile but packs a wallop of heat, so

beware! That said, the slightly sweet fruity flavor of this chile counterbalances the heat just a bit. Available fresh as well as dried, although they can be hard to find. A reasonable substitute would be several small fresh red Thai chiles.

For authenticity I have referenced Diana Kennedy’s recipe for Papazules from her wonderful book The Cuisines of Mexico first published in 1972.

 

Papadzules   serves 4

Have on hand:

  • Freshly made corn tortillas (or packaged)
  • 4 hard cooked eggs

Prepare ahead:

Yucatecan Salsa de Jitomate

  • 4 plump vine ripe tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • ½ head garlic
  • 1 red Habanero chile, or 4 medium size fresh Thai red chiles
  • 1 teaspoon of salt or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil

This salsa can be made well in advance and stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Brush the whole tomatoes, onion, garlic. and the small red chiles (if substituting for the Habanero chile) with oil and place on the grill, or stove top grill, and roast until the skin is evenly charred on all sides. Then transfer the tomatoes, onion, and garlic to a baking tray and place in the preheated oven for about 1 hour. Remove the garlic after about 30 minutes and set aside to cool.

Place the charred chiles in a small bowl and seal with clingfilm and set aside to sweat.

When the tomatoes and onion are fully roasted and quite soft remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When they are cool remove the charred skin from the tomatoes, cut in half and remove the seeds and cores. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl and crush them using your hands. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and add them to the tomatoes.
Remove the outer skin of the onion, chop the onion finely and add it to the tomatoes.

Finally remove the charred skin from the small chiles, slit open lengthwise, and remove all the seeds. Then dice the chiles and add them to the tomatoes.

If you are using a fresh Habanero chile I would suggest using gloves to avoid a lingering burning sensation on your fingers from the capsaicin residue. Open the Habanero chile and remove the seeds, finely mince the chile, and add it to the bowl of the tomatoes.

Smash the tomatoes, garlic onions and chiles together to release all the juices. Then place a large skillet over medium high heat and add the peanut oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add the tomato salsa mixture and fry for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the salsa juices have reduced and the salsa has thickened. Season with salt to taste and set aside to cool. You can then store the salsa in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Broth for the pumpkin seed sauce

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 large sprigs fresh epazote
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

If epazote sprigs are not available substitute:

  • 3 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds 
  • coriander root

Place the water in a saucepan along with the epazote, including the stems, and the salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. If epazote is not available add the parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, coriander root, and salt to the water and simmer for 15 minutes.

Allow the broth to cool. Then strain the broth and set aside to use later.

Toasted Pumpkin Sauce

  • 6 oz/ 170g unsalted green pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted and finely ground
  • broth

Place the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet set over medium heat. Keep the seeds in motion so they toast evenly without loosing their green color. Once the seeds begin to pop keep turning the seeds until they are evenly toasted. Promptly transfer the seeds to a tray to cool.

When the seeds are completely cool transfer them to a spice grinder and grind into a flour like powder. You will have to do this in batches and be sure to shake the grinder so the seeds are evenly ground. Place all the ground seeds in a wide shallow dish.

Then sprinkle about ¼ cup of the both over the ground seeds. Using a silicone spatula mound the damp seed mixture together until it binds together in a mound on one side of the dish. Prop the dish up on one side so it is slightly inclined with with mound of damp seeds on the elevated side of the dish.

Begin compressing the seed mixture with the spatula and you will see pumpkin seed oil appearing and flowing to the lower side of the dish. Diana Kennedy explains in her recipe that the oil is then used to decorate the Papadzules just before serving. This step is entirely up to you. The collected oil will be about 2 tablespoons. If you don’t want to bother with this step just mound the seed paste together and transfer it to a small saucepan.

Add some of the broth to the saucepan and stir it into the seed mixture until the mixture is quite fluid. Place the saucepan over medium low heat and stir continuously while the sauce heats up, without actually boiling, and begins to thicken. At this point it is important to stir continuously as the sauce will otherwise stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch.

Once the sauce is slightly thick you can blend the sauce with a hand held blender until the sauce is very smooth, adjusting the consistency by adding additional broth as needed. Ideally the sauce should resemble thick cream.

The best way to hold the sauce until you are ready to assemble the Papazules is to transfer the sauce to a stainless mixing bowl set over a pot of nearly simmering water; a ban marie kind of arrangement. This will keep the sauce from curdling as it tends to do if it is held over direct heat. Keep the remaining broth on hand to stir into the sauce if it begins to dry out or curdle.

Assembling the Papadzules for serving. Traditionally Papadzules are served warm rather than hot.

Gather all the components together for easy assembly. Be sure the sauce is warm and slide a tortilla through the sauce to coat. Do this quickly as you do not want the tortilla to get soggy. Promptly place the tortilla on a plate, scatter the chopped egg over the inner surface, and roll the tortilla to encase the chopped egg filling.

Place 2 filled tortillas on a plate for each serving. Spoon additional pumpkin seed sauce over the filled tortillas, and then spoon the salsa diagonally over the sauced Papadzules. Garnish with fresh epazote leaves if available, or with fresh oregano leaves as pictured.

Buen proveche !

Other recipes from the Yucatan you may want to try:

Pollo Pibil (click here)

Cochinita Pibil (click here)

una Casserole...extraordinaire

Tuna Casserole…extraordinaire

January always ushers in a welcome return to some semblance of normalcy after all the excesses of the holidays. Cooking everyday meals again somehow feels fresh and interesting with all kinds of new ideas floating around about how to turn ordinary meals into extraordinary meals.

Tuna Casserole...extraordinaire

Tuna Casserole…extraordinaire

Take for example the tuna casserole, a baked concoction topped with potato chips that was popularized back in the 50’s in America. The formula couldn’t be simpler. Canned tuna, a can of Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup, milk, cooked noodles, frozen peas, and grated cheese tossed into a casserole dish, topped with potato chips, and baked off in the oven. It was quick, easy, and cheap! That 50’s recipe has somehow managed to weather the test of time and has inspired endless reinterpretations along the way, including one of my own that follows.

What I propose is not the 30 minute tuna casserole of the 50’s. But with an investment of a few more ingredients and more time spent in the kitchen will produce, and I say this with complete confidence, a tuna casserole…extraordinaire. This is a tuna casserole you would be proud to serve for a dinner party.

Reinterpreting tried and true everyday recipes, especially over the long winter months, is both fun and productive. Just give your creative self free reign in the kitchen and turn those old standbys into some extraordinary meals that everyone is going to love!

 

Tuna Casserole…extraordinaire serves 4 to 6

As there are multiple components required I have arranged the recipe in an easy to follow step by step format.

Step 1:

  • 1 head of broccoli, florets divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F/ 220 C

Place the broccoli florets and garlic in a bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss until the ingredients are evenly coated with oil and transfer to a baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast until the broccoli is tender and nicely colored, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Step 2:

  • 1 jalapeno chile
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved

Roast the jalapeno, red pepper, and the halved onion over an open flame on the stove top or grill until all are evenly charred. Transfer the jalapeno and red bell pepper to a bowl, seal with cling film, and set aside to sweat. Once cool slip off the charred skins and discard. Open both lengthwise, remove the seeds, and cut into thin strips. Reserve several strips of red pepper for garnishing, as pictured, and dice the remaining strips and set aside.

Remove the charred outer layer of the onion halves and discard. Dice the onions and set aside.

Step 3:

  • 6 medium sized white button mushrooms (or 10 smaller shiitake), thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a medium size saute pan set over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil and add the sliced mushrooms and reserved roasted diced onions. Saute until the mushrooms have wilted, given up their liquid, and are just beginning to color. Season lightly with salt and pepper and toss.

Once most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated add the wine and turn up the heat. Saute until the wine has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender and nicely colored. Set aside to cool.

Step 4: For the sauce mornay:

  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk, heated
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ cup grated pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan and when bubbling add the flour. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes. Then begin slowly adding the heated milk while continuing to stir. Once all the milk has been added toss in the the lemon zest and continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and cook, stirring continuously as the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the thyme and grated pecarino. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside. Remove the lemon zest before adding the sauce to the casserole.

Step 5

  • 1/2  cup dry macaroni noodles
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Bring a pot of water to a rolling broil and add the salt. Add the noodles and stir. Boil the noodles until al dente. Strain and set the noodles aside until you are ready to assemble the casserole.

Step 6: For the bread crumb topping:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup bread crumbs or panko
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan and when bubbling add the bread crumbs and saute until the butter is absorbed and the crumbs are lightly browned. Season with salt, toss, and Set aside to cool.

Step 7:

Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C with the rack in the middle position.

Prepare a buttered casserole dish large enough to hold all the ingredients.

Assembling the casserole:

  • 1 can of well drained tuna
  • reserved red bell pepper strips for garnishing the top of the casserole as pictured

In a large bowl combine the roasted broccoli florets, the diced roasted jalapenos and bell peppers , the mushroom onion mixture, cooked noodles, and the tuna. Toss until well combined. Then add several ladles full of the sauce and toss until all the ingredients are evenly coated with the sauce.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Even out the contents in the dish and ladle sauce over all, jiggling the dish so the sauce fills the dish evenly to within a half inch of the top of the casserole dish. Distribute the bread crumbs evenly over the surface and garnish with the reserved red pepper strips.

Transfer the casserole to the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the bread crumbs are nicely browned.

Serving:

Serve straight out of the oven! A beautiful simple mixed greens salad pairs well with this casserole and rounds out the meal perfectly!

Chili con Carne

 

I can’t think of any dish more satisfying than a steaming bowl of earthy chili when winter’s grip bears down in earnest. Not that that happens here in Thailand, but vivid memories of winter’s bite are forever embedded in my psyche none the less. Chili’s colorful cultural past adds an almost palatable celebratory air that makes it an ideal choice for those informal holidays meals that lie ahead. Chili does freeze beautifully so why not get a head start and have chili essentially ready on demand.

Whenever I sit down to write about chiles there is that lingering conundrum about spelling and usage of the words that always comes to mind. When to use Chile and when to use Chili? Having lived among both Spanish and Mexican communities in the American Southwest and in Los Angeles for some time I have have sorted out the usage, but there are still ongoing heated debates about the correct spelling, definition, and usage of the words chile and chili.

In short chile is the Spanish word for all varieties of peppers (capsicums) that they discovered when they arrived in the new world. In Mexico however the word chili stems from the Nahuatl/ Aztec language dating back to at least the 7th century which describes the plants that produce all varieties chilis (capsicums).

Of course today both words have garnered various meanings not only for the peppers themselves but also for dishes that are made with them.

For example, in the North American southwest the word chile is used to describe varieties of capsicums associated with various levels of scoville heat as well as dishes made with the them. In the rest of North America the word chili (chili con carne) describes the popular spicy Tex Mex stew like dish that contains ground meat in a chile and tomato based sauce that often includes beans. South of the border chili con Carne is a chunky meat stew in a spicy chili based sauce without the addition of beans.

Confused? Just to make the differentiation even a little more complicated the Nahuatl language is still widely used in rural central Mexico as is the word chili. So in Mexican communities living on both sides of the border use both words interchangeably.

Generally speaking, it is safe to say that chile is the appropriate word to reference all varieties of capsicums with heat. Chili is reserved for describing the popular dish chili con carne as well as the seasoning mixture of ground dried chile powder mixed with other seasoning spices. Pure ground chiles without other seasonings would be called chile powder.

For more tasty information on this spicy subject (click here) for Chili (Basics).

The recipe that follows more closely follows a Mexican chili con carne that includes dried chiles to deeply flavor the sauce. However I have used ground beef instead of chunks of beef, and included beans in the chili which are served separately in Mexico. For me, including the beans in the chili makes a more complex and richly flavorsome Mexican meal in a single bowl. But maybe I’m just biased having grown up eating Tex Mex chile.

 

Chili con Carne    serves 6

  • 12 dried guajillo chiles, split lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 1 or 2 dried chipotle chiles (or canned chipotles in adobo)
  • 6 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons lard or cold pressed peanut oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (Mexican if available) 
  • 4 vine ripe tomatoes (or canned Italian plum tomatoes)
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • ¼ teaspoon ground clove
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon pure ground red chile powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt + more to taste
  • 1 quart beef or chicken stock + more as needed, preheated
  • 2 cups cooked beans (pinto, kidney, or black)
  • salsa fresca
  • crema or sour cream 
  • warm corn and flour tortillas

Warm a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat. Place the guahillo chiles in the skillet. Using a spatula press the chiles against the bottom of he pan. Let them toast for a minute or so and then flip them over, again pressing them against the bottom of the skillet and toasting another minute. Remove them and set them aside to cool briefly. Then remove the stems, tear the chiles into pieces, and place them in a sauce pan. Add the whole dried chipotle chiles and add just enough water to cover all the chiles and place the pan over low heat. Bring to a low simmer and cook until the chiles are soft and pliable, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Remove the stems from the chipotle chiles and transfer all the chiles to a blender jar and add enough cooking liquid to cover. Reserve the remaining cooking liquid to use later as needed,

Using the same skillet toast the unpeeled garlic cloves until they are lightly colored on all sides. Remove them and set them aside to cool. Then peel off the skin, mince the garlic, and set aside.

Add 1  tablespoons lard or oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot add the onions and saute until they are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, ground cumin, and oregano and saute another couple of minute. Then transfer the contents of the pan to the blender jar.

Add 1  tablespoons of the lard or oil to the same skillet set over medium heat. When hot add the tomatoes (fresh or canned) and fry them until they are soft and lightly caramelized. Break them up and continue to cook until very soft. Then transfer them to the blender jar including the juices.

Add enough reserved chile liquid to to fill the blender jar to about half full. Begin pulsing until the ingredients are broken down and then increase the speed to high until the mixture is very smooth. If it is very thick thin with the remaining reserved chile liquid or stock.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of lard or oil in a soup or stock pot set over medium heat. When hot add the ground beef and cook until the meat is evenly browned, stirring from time to time. Add the clove, bay leaves, cocoa powder, red chile powder, and salt. Stir until well combined. Then pour in the hot stock and stir. When the contents reach a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the beans and continue to cook another 30 minutes. The consistency of the chili should be very thick, but add a little stock to thin it out a bit if needed. Taste and add additional salt to taste. Skim off excess fat floating on the surface of the chili and discard.

At this point the chili is ready to serve. Otherwise transfer the chili to containers and cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating or freezing.

Serving:

This chili is so rich and flavorsome it needs very little embellishment other than a dollop of sala fresca and a swirl of sour cream or crema with each serving. Be sure to have a basket full of warm corn and flour tortillas and a bowl of salasa fresca placed on the table.

Crema is a Mexican sour cream that you can make by simply stirring a small amount of whole milk into a bowl of sour cream. 

Buen provecho!

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