Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ivanka's Chicken Paprikash (kuře na paprice)--serves about 10

Ivanka's chicken paprikash
You may remember my friend Ivanka from my recent post on Ivanka's Czech Guláš. After she returned home (to Colorado) she wrote me a lovely note including a description of her Chicken Paprikash (known as kuře na paprice in Czech) along with several beautiful postcards from Prague and photos. Here is my interpretation of this creamy chicken dish based on what she shared with me. Thank you Ivanka for the lovely pictures and delicious recipe!

Ivanka's Chicken Paprikash (kuře na paprice)--serves about 10

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp oil
1 large sweet onion (about 12 oz), peeled, chopped
2 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
1 tsp ground black or white pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
10 skinless chicken thighs (preferably with bones in), about 4-lbs
2 tomatoes (about 10 oz), skin and seeds removed, diced
5 bay leaves
32-oz chicken stock, fat free, reduced sodium
8-oz water
1 tsp salt
473 mL (pint) light cream
8 oz light sour cream

Method:

1) In a large pot saute onion in oil for about 10 minutes over medium high heat or until the onion is soft and slightly golden.
2) Add paprika, pepper, and flour. Saute about 30 seconds to a minute. May reduce heat a little to prevent the paprika from burning.
3) Add chicken, tomatoes, bay leaves and stock. Add extra water if needed in order to keep the chicken submerge. Turn the heat to medium high. Once the liquid comes to a boil turn heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is soft but not falling off the bones.
4) Remove the chicken. Season the broth with salt. Let the broth cool down.
5) Strain everything in the pot, remove and discard the bay leaves and puree the solid pieces with a little broth. Return the pureed liquid back to the pot.
6) Add the light cream and sour cream. Whisk until everything is blended and smooth looking. Return the cooked chicken back into the sauce and heat up the pot. Avoid boiling. Season with more salt if interested. Serve hot.

*According to Ivanka you may use skinless chicken legs, breasts, thighs or a combination of these. I prefer to use the chicken with the bones-in as they add more flavor.
*Ivanka tells me to add sour cream or whipped cream or half of each. I used sour cream and light cream for this dish. This dish is creamy but not heavy.
*I prefer to use sweet onion. You can use either white or yellow onion.
*I score the tomato with an "X" and put in boiling water for about 30 seconds to help peel the skin.  
*I used a 5 1/2 quart cast iron pot.
*You can serve this dish with dumplings, rice or noodles. I serve it with pasta. Use whatever utensils you have or prefer but I use chopsticks to eat pasta since I can eat it faster than a fork.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New England Clam Chowder (about 6-7 servings)

New England clam chowder

I love to eat a good piping hot bowl of clam chowder especially on a cool and/or rainy day. I prefer my chowder to be more soupy and light with lots of clams instead of thick and heavy. I think the best tasting chowders are made using half and half and fresh clam broth to create a light broth. There is nothing better than to load up on fresh clams. Here I use Downeast steamer clams (from Maine) and cherrystone clams. The result is delicious!

New England Clam Chowder (about 6-7 servings)

Ingredients:

2.2 lbs Downeast steamer clams (about 1 cup of chopped clam meat)
About 1 1/2 lbs cherrystone clams (about 3/4 cup chopped clam meat)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (use what you have) or butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 1/2 oz pancetta, diced
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 small stick celery heart, chopped (optional)
3 cups fresh clam broth (from Downeast steamer clams)
One container half and half (pint or 473 mL)
A handful of sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp fish sauce

Method:

1) Soak the clams for about 5-10 minutes, scrub them and let them drain.
2) Use a steamer basket and place the Downeast steamer clams inside. Use about 2 cups of cold water to steam the clams for about 3 minutes or until they open up. Remove the clams and reserve the broth for cooking. Remove and discard the loose rough skin on the clams.
3) Boil the cherrystone clams using about 2 cups of cold water. Once the clams opens up remove the clams and reserve the broth (for dipping the clams).
4) Dip the clams into the cherrystone clam broth (from step 3) to remove any bits of shells or grits.
5) Rough chop the clams and reserve.
6) In a large pot over medium high heat. Add oil or butter. Add onion and pancetta. Saute about 1-2 minutes or until the onion is soft.
7) Add potatoes and celery. Saute about 2-3 minutes.
8) Add the clam broth and clams. Once the liquid starts to boil turn the heat down to low. Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard any foam that floats to the top.
9) Add half and half, thyme and season with fish sauce. Turn the heat up a little. Avoid letting the liquid boil. Once the contents have heated up turn off heat and serve.

*I grow the thyme in pots so I can use them when needed. You can remove the leaves and just use them in this chowder. I put some leaves in and some sprigs for a more rustic look. Be sure not to eat these sprigs though. 
*If you don't have access to fresh clams you may use canned clams and canned broth. The fresh clams are very sweet and I highly recommend them.
*The celery heart is more tender so I prefer to use that over the tougher outer ones.
*You can substitute bacon for the pancetta.
*I prefer the Idaho potatoes in this chowder since they are more starchy than some others. Besides they are grown right here in the United States!
*If you are in Idaho you may be interested in this museum: idahopotatomuseum.com 
*Below are a few Fall photos that I took this afternoon near my home in New Hampshire.

pumpkin patch (New Hampshire, 2016)
New Hampshire, 2016
New Hampshire, 2016
New Hampshire, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Ivanka's Czech Guláš (about 10-12 servings)

Ivanka's Czech Guláš
I met Ivanka through my friend and neighbor Inge. Ivanka worked with Inge in the airline industry before she retired. However, in her spare time, she has some rental properties and this has been keeping her active. She lives in Colorado and visits New Hampshire annually. On this trip I learned that she left Prague at age 22 and walked all night with her brother to Italy nearly 5 decades ago to escape communism. The walk was dangerous but they made it out of Czechoslovakia without getting shot or arrested. After arriving in Italy the police helped them to various places where they stayed temporarily and eventually they immigrated to New York. Initially life was tough for them but things improved after they had jobs and safe housing...the typical story of many immigrants in the United States. Ivanka and I share some things in common besides escaping communism at a young age. We both enjoy good food, good friends, a passion for travel and a deep appreciation for what we have in life and for an opportunity to accomplish something from nothing.

Ivanka knows I like to experiment with cooking so she graciously gave me a gift bag with bottles of caraway seeds, a kitchen mitt and towel, and a large chocolate bar. She had mentioned that the Czech goulash must have caraway seeds. When I asked her on this trip how she makes her goulash she tells me to fry some onion, sear some meat (either beef or pork) dredged with flour, and add stock--all very vague. Strangely these types of cooking tips sound very familiar! After probing further about her recipe she responds, "yes, add caraway seeds, paprika, salt, and pepper." Her mother had added green peppers and mushrooms to her goulash but that style is not the typical Czech way. She cautions me not to burn the paprika since it will make everything bitter. She always sears her meat to keep it moist and flavorful. She loves lots of spices so she adds jalapeno peppers in her goulash. She tells me you can eat the goulash with anything you want; even baguette or knedlíky (Czech dumplings) as she prefers. Here is my goulash known as guláš in Czech that is totally inspired by my friend Ivanka. Thank you, Ivanka for the cooking advice and gifts!

searing the meat
seared meat
Ivanka's Czech guláš over pasta--YUM!
Ivanka's Czech Guláš (about 10-12 servings)

Ingredients:

About 5-lbs pork, cut into about 1-inch cube, washed and drained
About 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
2 1/2 Tbsp whole caraway seeds
2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
5  large garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 Tbsp)
60-oz beef broth (unsalted)
Oil (vegetable, canola, corn or whatever you have) for searing meat
2 tsp salt

Method:

1) Spread 3/4 cup of flour onto a plate. Coat the meat into the flour.
2) Heat a large pot (use a cast iron pot if you have one) over medium high heat. Add a little oil. Once the pot is hot line the pot with the flour dredged meat. Do not stack the meat on top of each other. Brown the meat for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the seared meat. Continue to do this this until all the meat is seared.
3) Add the onions. May turn down the heat a little if the pot is too hot. Cook the onion for about 6 minutes until it is brown but not burned. May add a little oil if needed.
4) Add caraway seeds, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, cumin, and garlic. Saute for about a minute.
5) Add the remaining 1/4 cup flour and any flour leftover on the plate into the pot. May add a little oil if needed. Stir and cook for another minute. Add a little broth and mash the flour a little to prevent clumping.
6) Return the seared meat into the pot. Add the rest of the broth (and more if needed) to submerge the meat. Turn the heat back up. Once the liquid starts to boil turn it down to low. Skim off any impurities or foam that float to the top. Cover the lid and cook for 45 minutes or until the meat is soft.
7) After 45 minutes uncover and let the liquid boils off for another 10-15 minutes to help reduce the liquid a little. Season with salt.

*I did not have time to make the dumplings so for a quick meal it was eaten with pasta.
*I prefer to use unsalted (and all natural) beef stock or broth. This way I can adjust the salt at the end according to my taste. 
*I used "pork butt" in this recipe. I trimmed some of the fat off the meat but not all of them. I like some fat on my meat for flavors. According to Ivanka you can use either pork or beef. The pork was on sale this week and it looked fresh and labeled as "all natural". The pork worked out well. I gave some of my first batch of goulash to Ivanka to sample while she was here and she tells me "it tasted very good". I omitted the cayenne and used water instead of broth (in the first batch). Hopefully the second time around will be much improved!
*This recipe is probably plenty for at least 10-12 servings.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pan-Fried Citrus Salmon (serves 2-3)

pan-fried citrus salmon
This is one of my favorite easy marinades for pan-fried salmon...mostly because it is tasty and I generally have these ingredients in my kitchen. When the salmon is cooked just right it is moist and delicious. I normally check for doneness by piercing with the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part of the salmon. Cooked salmon will appear opaque. I remove the pan from the heat when the majority of the salmon meat is opaque and the center is still slightly translucent. As the salmon is still hot it will continue to cook further. I normally serve my salmon with steamed rice and sauteed vegetables such as asparagus and mushrooms.

Pan-Fried Citrus Salmon (serves 2-3)

Ingredients

About 1-lb salmon, scale and cut into 2-3 pieces
Juice from 1/2 small orange
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp turbinado sugar
1 tsp chopped chives
About 1/4 tsp grated orange skin
Pinch of salt

Method:

Mix orange juice, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, chives, orange zest, and salt in a small bowl. Drizzle the sauce over both sides of the salmon. Keep the salmon skin face up and let the salmon marinade for about 10 minutes. Pan fry with a little vegetable or canola oil for about 4-5 minutes on each side over medium high until it is cooked through. Turn heat down slightly if the pan gets too hot.

*As usual, you may adjust the seasoning according to your taste. I prefer to grate the ginger, garlic and orange skin instead of chopping. The fine consistency of these items makes everything taste better.
*Once home I scale the salmon skin completely so I can eat it. The fried skin is quite tasty. Some people pay top dollar in restaurants just to eat the skin so don't waste it!
*While cooking the salmon I cover the pan lightly with a piece of tin foil to prevent the oil from splattering and to help cook the salmon faster. If you do not have foil you may use a lid to partially cover the pan but avoid covering the pan completely. Remember you are frying the salmon not steaming it.
*This recipe works for both farm-raised and wild salmon. However, I find that farm-raised salmon tend to have more fat and this is a plus for great taste and extra moisture, especially for pan-fried or grilling. I have used a similar marinade for grilled jumbo shrimp in the past but just added more garlic and ginger and substituted soy sauce with a few drizzle of fish sauce to intensify the flavors.
*This Simple Sauteed Asparagus and Mushrooms (below) is quite easy to make. I sauteed a little diced pancetta (about 2 ounces) with a little oil for about 30 seconds over medium high heat. Add the cut asparagus (1 bunch or about one pound) and saute about 1 minute. Then add the sliced baby bella mushrooms (about 10 ounces) and saute about 3-4 minutes until the everything is cooked but the asparagus is still crunchy. Add a pinch of salt and remove from heat. After removing from heat a little liquid will come out of the mushrooms. While cooking I do not add extra liquid. You may omit the pancetta if you do not eat pork. I like my mushroom slices to be a little thicker for this particular dish so I slice each one into 3-4 slices.
*If interested please check out my previous blog on How to Prepare Fresh Asparagus for Eating.
*Many people visit New England especially Maine and New Hampshire to view the beautiful Fall colors on the trees. Below are a few photos that I took of a tree in front of my house (in New Hampshire). You may check out Foliage Tracker for the peak time to visit New Hampshire. Here is another link with more information on When to Find Peak Color in New England.

simple sauteed asparagus and mushrooms
Fall in New Hampshire, USA (October 2016)
sky view from my front yard today
Fall in New Hampshire, USA (October 2016)
this is from the same tree as above photo but a week earlier

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chicken and Preserved Lime Soup

chicken and preserved lime
In July I made a batch of chanh muối or preserved limes and have only used them for making drinks but not for cooking. If the limes are well made they will not get moldy and can last indefinitely. This simple chicken and preserved lime soup known in Vietnamese as "gà tiềm chanh muối" is a popular dish in my Teochew family. I don't want to overcook the chicken and dry out the meat so I simmer it for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cook further for an hour. The preserved lime provides a distinct mild citrus flavor and aroma, unlike any other chicken soups. According to my mother, it is enough to use one lime per chicken. She discourages against cooking the lime too long or over high heat since it may crack and make the broth bitter. This cornish hen is larger than most I have seen despite the label that it is "all natural" and "cage-free". I don't know about you but I prefer my chicken feather-free and clean. Pull out any feathers you see. If your bird has a tail and you want to keep it be sure that the fecal sac is cut out. It is located on top of the tail. Below is a photo of the cleaned bird and you can see that a piece (where the fecal sac once sat) had been sliced off by the tail. For this recipe, I season my broth with 2 teaspoons of fish sauce and 2 teaspoons of salt but as with any dish, I encourage you to adjust the amount according to your taste buds. You can serve the cut chicken separate from the broth or put the cut pieces back into the broth. I prefer to keep the skin on the chicken pieces.

Chicken and Preserved Lime Soup

Ingredients:

One (about 2.2 lbs) cornish hen, cleaned and keep whole
Enough water to submerge the entire hen (I used about 9 cups)
1 whole Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Preserved Limes)
Fish sauce and salt to taste (I used 2 tsp salt and 2 tsp fish sauce)

Method:

Rub the whole hen with salt and water, remove and discard any feathers and fat that you can see, and rinse it clean. Place the hen in a pot (preferably one that is taller than the top of the chicken) breast (thickest part of the bird) down and add the neck if it comes with one. Pour enough water to submerge the whole hen. Keep the pot uncovered. Turn heat to high. Once the water starts to boil turn heat down to a gentle simmer. After 5 minutes add the whole preserved lime. Let everything simmer for another 15 minutes. Skim off and discard any foam or impurities that float to the top. Season the broth with fish sauce and salt. Turn off heat and cover the pot. Let it steep for an hour. Remove the lime and chicken from the pot. Cut up the chicken and serve it with rice and the flavorful broth.

cornish hen--ready to cook